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  1. Schuetz Haemmerli, Natascha MScN, RN
  2. Lemola, Sakari PhD
  3. Holditch-Davis, Diane PhD, RN, FAAN
  4. Cignacco, Eva PhD, RM


Background: Parenting stress after preterm birth (PTB) has negative long-term effects on parenting. Research about parental experiences after PTB and on parenting stress in early childhood has focused on mothers.


Purpose: To compare parenting stress between mothers and fathers 2 to 3 years after PTB and full-term birth (FTB) and to explore their memories about their stress experience, especially after PTB.


Methods: Fifty-four mothers and fathers in Switzerland whose children were PTB and 65 parents of FTB completed the Parenting Stress Index 2 to 3 years after birth. We compared scores between PTB and FTB and between mothers and fathers. A random subset of parents took part in semistructured interviews that began with photo-elicitation. We analyzed the data thematically. We cross-validated and corroborated qualitative and quantitative findings about parenting stress 2 to 3 years after birth.


Results: Preterm birth is stressful for parents who cannot take a child's health for granted, but stress experiences after FTB and PTB equalize within 2 to 3 years. Mothers were the primary caregivers and suffered more stress than fathers. For parents with PTB, positive communications from healthcare workers strengthened parental coping in neonatal intensive care unit and after discharge, but parents perceived discharges as early and inconsistent.


Implications for Practice and Research: Interventions and new models of care improving communication with healthcare professionals, involving parents in infant care as early as possible, increasing staff support to help parents cope better, and optimizing the management of discharge need to be implemented into practice. Their impact on parenting stress on the long term needs to be investigated.