Neonatal intensive care unit admission and maternal postpartum depression

Tara Wyatt, Karina M. Shreffler, Lucia Ciciolla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aimed to examine the impact of newborns’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) admittance on maternal postpartum depression. Background: Prior research on the parental psychological impacts of a NICU admittance typically includes a hospital sample of parents following birth, so the causality of NICU admittance and maternal depressive symptomatology is unclear. Methods: 127 women across 38 counties in a South Central US state participated in online surveys in their third trimester and approximately six weeks post-birth in 2016. Pre- and post-birth assessments of depression were measured with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). NICU admittance was asked in the post-birth survey. t-Tests and multivariable regression analyses were used to determine predictors of NICU admittance and postnatal depressive symptomatology. Results: Findings indicate that prenatal depression does not differ significantly between mothers by NICU admission status, but NICU admission is a significant predictor of postpartum depressive symptomatology. Conclusions: Having a newborn admitted to the NICU is a risk factor for maternal postpartum depression. These findings have implications for practice; screening mothers in the NICU for depression as a target for intervention has the potential to improve maternal well-being, which in turn should enhance subsequent infant developmental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-276
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 27 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • mother(s)
  • Neonatal intensive care
  • NICU
  • postnatal depression


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