Differences and similarities between mothers and fathers of premature children: a qualitative study of parents' coping experiences in a neonatal intensive care unit
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Pediatrics 2016 10.1186/s12887-016-0631-9
Background: The aim of this study was to explore and describe the coping experiences of parents to children admitted to a neonatal unit. Methods: A qualitative research approach was chosen, using in-depth interviews with eight fathers and eight mothers. Results: The main findings were that parents with previous complicated births had more difficulties in coping compared to those parents with no experience with complications. Coping seemed easier where parents’ opinions were heard regarding their baby’s care and when both parents were present in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The main similarities between mothers and fathers were the reluctance to speak their opinions on childcare, and both experienced a sense of alienation and problems in bonding with the baby. They also needed a limitation on the number of visitors in the NICU. Differences between mothers and fathers were that fathers tried hard to be the strong partner in the relationship, and were more concerned with the mother if she was seriously ill postpartum, while mothers were more concerned for their baby. Mothers’ postpartum period was felt as more stressful if the father was not present, but mothers were also better at welcoming support from the health personnel. Conclusion: This study highlights the parent’s coping experiences in NICUs. Coping seemed easier where parents’ opinions were heard. Nurses in the NICU should take the former experiences of the parents into consideration when nursing in the NICU and planning for discharge.