Maternal stress, Neonatal intensive care, Nursing intervention, Premature infant



  1. Morey, Jo Ann BSN, RN
  2. Gregory, Katherine PhD, RN


Purpose: Maternal stress common to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) experience often impairs bonding, plays a role in postpartum depression and anxiety, and decreases maternal milk production. This study evaluated the effect of a nurse-led intervention pertaining to the experience of having a baby in the NICU on maternal stress in a population of high-risk pregnant women at three different time points.


Study Design and Methods: Using a repeated measures design, 42 pregnant women cared for on the high-risk antenatal unit participated in the educational intervention. Evaluative data pertaining to the intervention included maternal stress and knowledge specific to premature birth and the NICU. Participants answered surveys at three time points: prior to the intervention, immediately following the intervention, and 48 to 72 hours after infant admission to the NICU.


Results: Following the intervention, mothers were significantly more knowledgeable about who would be taking care of their baby (p = .008), their baby's body (p = .002), their baby's physical needs (p = .000), and the equipment used in the NICU (p = .001). In addition, participation in the intervention significantly decreased aspects of maternal stress related to the sights and sounds of the NICU (p = .010) and infant behavior and appearance (p = .035). Participation did not significantly influence feelings related to maternal role attainment (p = .165).


Clinical Implications: Nurse-led patient education is an effective intervention strategy when aiming to reduce maternal stress in the NICU. Family-centered interventions tailored to the care of the high-risk mother and infant can improve patient outcomes.