Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Depression Risk After NICU Discharge Decreases in Moms, but Not Dads

Mothers and fathers of premature infants are known to be at higher risk of postpartum depression compared with parents of full-term infants. A study in Pediatrics has found that while mothers’ risk of depression decreased after an infant’s discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital, fathers’ depression risk stayed relatively constant during and after the NICU stay.

“Clinicians must understand how different populations are at risk for [postpartum depression] to ensure optimal child outcomes,” wrote Craig Garfield, M.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and colleagues. “Screening parents for [postpartum depression] while their infant is in the NICU may be a key first step toward assisting both parents and, in the case of fathers in particular, becoming aware of potential post-discharge needs.”

Garfield and colleagues enrolled 230 mothers and 201 fathers who had premature infants (<37 weeks gestational age) recently admitted to the NICU for a prospective study. All the parents were screened with the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) at four time points: one week after the infant was admitted to the NICU, at NICU discharge, 14 days post discharge, and 30 days post discharge. An EPDS score of 10 or higher (out of 21 max) was considered the cutoff for depression.

At the initial assessment, 33% of the mothers and 17% of fathers had a positive EPDS screen. By the final assessment 30 days after NICU discharge, average EPDS scores had dropped by about three points in mothers but only one point in fathers—which the authors noted was a significant difference. The researchers calculated that the mothers were about 11 times as likely to screen positive on the EPDS following NICU admission compared with 30 days post discharge, whereas fathers had the same odds of screening positive at NICU admission and 30 days post discharge.

“Mothers and fathers experience different depressive symptom trajectories from NICU to home,” Garfield and colleagues concluded. “Screening parents for [postpartum depression] during the NICU stay is likely to result in improved identification of parents at-risk for [postpartum depression] after discharge.”

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Text Messages May Help Educate, Screen New Mothers for PPD.”

(Image: iStock/andresr)


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