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  1. Jubinville, Jodi RN, MN, NNP-BC
  2. Newburn-Cook, Christine PhD
  3. Hegadoren, Kathleen PhD
  4. Lacaze-Masmonteil, Thierry MD, PhD, FRCPC


PURPOSE: To determine whether significant symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD) are present in mothers of premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


SUBJECTS: Forty mothers of premature infants born less than 33 weeks and admitted into NICU.


DESIGN: Prospective, cohort, within-subjects.


METHODS: Mothers completed the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire, Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and the Acute Stress Disorder Interview to explore the number and severity of stress-related symptoms at 2 separate time periods, 7 to 10 days after birth, and 1 month after birth.


RESULTS: Twenty-eight percent of the mothers met diagnostic criteria of ASD at 7 to 10 days after birth, and at 1 month after birth ASD symptoms persisted. The majority of the mothers described premature birth as a traumatic stressor. The most commonly met criteria were dissociation and anxiety. Significant symptoms of depression were found in 43% of mothers and persisted 1 month after birth. Rates of depression and moderate to severe symptoms of ASD were significantly related in mothers at 1 week and at 1 month after birth.


CONCLUSIONS: The premature birth experience is traumatic for mothers and may lead to various emotional responses including stress-related symptoms such as depression and/or ASD. Mothers with significant symptoms of depression and those with symptoms of stress seem to be more at risk for developing symptoms of ASD.