When a Preemie Goes Home, Dad Stresses Out

From Drugs.com - December 7, 2017

When a Preemie Goes Home, Dad Stresses Out

THURSDAY, Dec. 7, 2017 -- When parents bring a premature baby home from the hospital, it's the dads who feel the most stress, a new study finds.

"Dad goes from a situation where the baby and mom are cared for by experts in the hospital to having to simultaneously care for his baby, partner and work. He is supposed to be the 'rock' for his partner but the stress can really set in," said study lead author Dr. Craig Garfield.

He's an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"One day of being stressed at home is not a big deal," Garfield said in a university news release. But if a dad's stress levels are still high after two weeks, that's more concerning, he added.

In the study of 86 parents, researchers found that both mothers and fathers of premature babies had high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva while their infant was in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

But during the baby's first 14 days at home, mothers' cortisol levels stayed stable while fathers' levels increased.

Also, fathers' cortisol levels indicated a higher level of stress than they reported they felt, the researchers found. That could indicate that they were not in touch with how stressed they actually were, Garfield said.

The take-home message here? More emphasis should be placed on making fathers of premature babies comfortable and confident with their child while still in the hospital. Relaxation is also important, Garfield added.

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