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Keywords:

  • Parental intervention;
  • Parents stress;
  • Preterm infants

Abstract

Aims

The study examined the effects of a parental intervention to reduce parents’ stress levels during the hospitalization of their very preterm infants in a NICU, taking into account possible differences between mothers and fathers.

Methods

Parents of infants born ≤32 weeks gestational age (GA) were randomly assigned to a standard support group (N = 21) or intervention group (N = 21). The intervention was based both on a joint observation method and infant massage provided by both parents. Parents’ stress was assessed by the Parental Stressor Scale: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, after the first week of admission and at the infant's discharge.

Results

At discharge, intervention group parents showed significantly lower levels of stress related to infants’ appearance/behaviour and to parental role alteration (PRA) than those of the standard support group (p = 0.000). Overall, mothers reported more stress compared with fathers (p  0.05). The intervention was effective in reducing the stress-role alteration in mothers (p < 0.05), but not in fathers.

Conclusions

Mothers reported more stress compared with fathers, above all for PRA. A parental intervention was effective in reducing stress-role alteration in mothers, but not fathers. Parental interventions should take into account that help for fathers could be different from help for mothers.