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Vriend E, Leemhuis A, Flierman M, van Schie P, Nollet F, Jeukens-Visser M. Mental health monitoring in parents after very preterm birth. Acta Paediatr. 2021 Aug 10.

Aim: To evaluate parental mental health monitoring during follow up care for very preterm (VPT) infants, describe symptoms of anxiety and depression and risk factors for mothers and fathers at 1 and 12 months of corrected age.

Methods: Parents completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Psychological symptoms and risk factors were analyzed within and between mothers and fathers.

Results: In 4 years, the monitoring reached 1260 (48%) families. Of these, 693 mothers and 340 fathers (300 couples) completed the HADS twice. At 1 month, 22% and 15% of the mothers and 10% and 9% of the fathers respectively reported elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression. At 12 months, these rates were significantly reduced to 14% and 9% for mothers and 5% and 4% for fathers, respectively. Within couples, anxiety and depression were positively associated. At 12 months, in 20% of the couples, one or both parents reported elevated symptoms. Risk factors were length of hospital stay, migration background, educational level and employment status.

Conclusion: The mental health of parents of VPT infants improved, but elevated symptoms were still observed in 20% of included families after one year. Acknowledging and remediating parental mental health remains essential during follow-up care.


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