Prevalence and Longevity of PTSD Symptoms Among Parents of NICU Infants Analyzed Across Gestational Age Categories

Clinical Pediatrics, Ahead of Print.
Objective. This study aims to investigate whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms exist >1 year after neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) experience and whether PTSD symptomatology differs across parents of infants of different gestational age categories. Methods. A survey was given to parents at routine NICU follow-up visits. Parents completed the PTSD CheckList–Civilian (PCL-C), a standardized scale comprising 17 key symptoms of PTSD. Parents also rated how traumatic their birth experience, first day in the NICU, and first week in the NICU were from “Not Traumatic at All” to “Most Traumatic.” Fisher’s exact test was used to compare PCL-C responses across gestational age categories (Extremely Preterm, Very Preterm, Moderate to Late preterm, and Full Term). Results. Eighty parents participated. In total, 15% of parents had “Moderate to High Severity” PTSD symptoms. There were no statistical differences in PTSD prevalence between parents of children <1 year old and parents of children >1 year old (P = .51). There was also no statistical difference in prevalence of “Moderate to High Severity” level of PTSD symptoms across gestational age (P = .16). Overall, 38% of parents rated at least one experience as “Most traumatic.” Conclusion. A high percentage of parents who had a recent NICU experience and parents who had a NICU experience more than a year ago demonstrated PTSD symptoms. In light of these results, many parents of NICU graduates—both mothers and fathers—would benefit from access to long-term counseling services.

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