Need for mental health support for parents

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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It’s natural for parents of premature babies who are in NICU to be under a lot of stress. Here’s how to take care of your mental health.

Several parents go through emotional and mental trauma, while their baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). And stress due to the high fina​​ncial cost of treatment is also a part of the mental health troubles. NICUs offer specialized care to premature babies, and those newborns who are unwell.

A well-equipped NICU includes all the latest facilities and technologies needed to monitor and treat various problems in babies. Those parents whose babies are in the NICU may be tense, stressed, frustrated, worried, and become anxious. It can take a toll on their emotional and mental well-being.

These parents will have many doubts in their minds, regarding the condition of the baby, and how to take care of the baby? Will the baby be all right? Will the baby be able to lead a healthy life? What will be the prognosis of the disease that the baby is suffering from? All these questions can steal one’s peace of mind.

We explain to you how the baby being in the NICU can impact a parent’s mental well-being:

1. Depression:

Those parents whose babies are in the NICU may experience depression. Sometimes, they may find it hard to accept that their baby has a particular problem. They are constantly in a denial mode.

parental mental health in the NICU
Parents, take care of yourself in order to give your best to your kids! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Postpartum depression and PTSD:

Parents of premature babies are at a high risk for postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which is why they require a lot of mental health support.

3. Panic attacks:

Many new mothers of premature babies may get panic attacks, after seeing the baby in the NICU fighting for his/her life. They can break down, become anxious, stressed, frustrated, tense, and nervous, and don’t know what to do.

Here are some tips to enhance their mental health:

• Parents need to accept reality and calm down. They need to take it easy and avoid being harsh on themselves;
• Try to de-stress by meditating, listening to soft music, reading, and diverting your mind for some time;
• Take good care by eating properly and sleeping on time. Follow a structured routine. Speak to your doctor and get clarity about the baby’s health;
• Open up about what you feel with your family and friends. Get some social support. Speak to other couples with similar experiences to ease anxiety.

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