An integrative review of maternal distress during neonatal intensive care hospitalization

Morgan A. Staver, Tiffany A. Moore, Kathleen M. Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


To synthesize literature addressing maternal distress and associated variables in response to infant hospitalization in the NICU. CINAHL, Medline, PubMed, PsychINFO, and Scopus were searched for studies addressing maternal distress during NICU hospitalization published between January 2009 and August 2019. The initial literature search yielded 862 articles. Articles were included for analysis if (a) they were peer-reviewed, (b) maternal distress was defined or measured, and (c) maternal distress occurred in the NICU. Ultimately, 33 articles were included for analysis. Distress symptoms were not consistently measured across the literature by one specific instrument. However, despite the variety of instruments, distress was prevalent in this population. Individual elements of maternal distress in the NICU include depression, anxiety, trauma, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. These elements often occur together and tend to follow a specific trajectory during hospitalization. This body of literature was inconsistent regarding the timing of distress measurement as well as the relationship between relevant associated variables (e.g., marital status or infant illness severity) and maternal distress. Additionally, researchers often excluded mothers of non-preterm infants and infants with congenital anomalies from investigation. Researchers and clinicians should carefully consider timing and instrumentation in their interpretations of maternal distress measurement during a NICU hospitalization. Future work should focus on developing a comprehensive, valid, and reliable screening tool for clinicians and researchers to use to identify maternal distress in the NICU. Additionally, future research should address gaps in the populations included in studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intensive care units
  • Mothers
  • Neonatal
  • Post-traumatic
  • Stress disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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