Examining the impact of premature birth on parental mental health and family functioning in the years following hospital discharge: A review

BACKGROUND: This review provides an update of the current research related to the impact of extreme and very premature birth on parental mental health and family functioning following discharge from hospital. METHODS: Full-text peer reviewed articles in English, describing parents’ and families’ health and wellbeing after the discharge from hospital of their baby using validated questionnaires, were evaluated. Results of included studies are presented in a summarized format. Embase, Medline and PsycINFO databases were accessed in January 2021. RESULTS:38 studies were included. Nine manuscripts reported on parental mental health and 13 on stress, which are a concern after the birth of a premature infant, especially in the first year. Depression, anxiety, and stress are known to measure higher compared to parents of infants born at term. Over several years, these measures of mental health decrease significantly. Four reported on quality of life for parents of premature infants, which is reduced immediately after discharge, but then improves over time. The impact of premature birth on the family functioning was described in ten included studies and was described to have positive and negative consequences. CONCLUSION: The negative impact of the premature birth and hospital journey on parental mental health lessens significantly with time.

*Corresponding Author: 

Nele Legge MD, Newborn Care Centre, Liverpool Hospital, Corner of Elizabeth and Goulburn Streets, Liverpool NSW 2170, Australia. Tel.: +61 02 87385855; E-mail: Nele.legge@health.nsw.gov.au.