Factors Influencing the Psychological
Adjustment of Mothers to the Birth
of a Preterm Infant
Deborah B. Rosenblatt
Margaret E. Redshaw
The birth of a preterm baby is a shock for most parents and usually sets into motion a series of events which includes separation from the baby, anxiety about his survival and future health and development, and exposure to an area of medical care that is unfamiliar to them.
The literature contains many reports on the effects of admission to a Neonatal Unit (NNU) on maternal confidence (Barnett et al., 1970), mother-infant interaction (Brown and Bakeman, 1980; Marton et al., 1980), and family relations (Lynch and Roberts, 1977).
Although many professionals acknowledge the intrusiveness of the typically busy technological NNU, it has not been systematically studied in the way other aspects of neonatal care have been. A notable exception is a study wherein mothers were interviewed about their satisfaction with the care their baby received and their adjustment to the baby's stay (Jeffcoate et al., 1979). Over the past ten years neonatal care has become more sophisticated, resulting in greater success in saving small and sick infants, At the same time health professionals have become aware of the need for sensitive staff who can also deal with parents' emotional needs in adjusting to the early birth of their baby and gradually assuming the more appropriate role of full-time parents to a healthy growing son or daughter. The current study attempts to document how well we are achieving some of these aims.
Over a one-year period, mothers of preterm infants (< thirty-seven weeks) were asked to complete a short questionnaire about their initial experience in the neonatal unit. The data presented here are drawn from the first fifty questionnaires filled out between day four and day seven, excluding outborn infants (very few in this unit), subsequent neonatal deaths, and those infants with congenital malformations. There were fifty-two infants because the sample included two sets of twins.
Details of maternal and infant characteristics are presented in tables 24-1 and 24-2. A few of these statistics are worthy of comment. We serve a very disadvantaged inner-city population in an area with a high proportion of West Indians, Africans, and Asians. There are a sub