PTSD from this experience is a real thing and should not be ignored. The sounds, smells, and many triggers will haunt you for a long period of time after you are home. The NICU is very much like a warzone and your fight and flight stays in full active alert mode. You can feel overwhelmed, experience panic attacks, have vivid dreams and nightmares. The beeps and alarms from the monitors will crawl up your spine and you will feel on edge. The increase of postpartum depression ranges from 28-70% for mother’s who babies are in the NICU. You feel isolated and fearful for your baby.
We can remember the smells of the soap, shampoo, the sounds, the lack of sleep. If you are a family member pay close attention for any signs of PTSD and seek help. Use the following five tips to help ease your symptoms. If you see the emotions are persisting seek professional help.
1. Interact with your baby as much as possible.
2. Take care of yourself. Eat and sleep as much as you can.
3. Accept help from family so you can take a break.
4. Try music therapy to reduce mental fatigue.
5. Keep a journal to dump your emotions onto paper.
Where to turn for help?
- The New York Times – For Parents on NICU, Trauma May Last
- The Mighty – We Need to Talk About PTSD in NICU Parents
- The Atlantic – The Trauma of Having a Newborn in the NICU
- J Multidiscip Healthc – Postpartum depression screening in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: program development, implementation, and lessons learned
- J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs – Posttraumatic stress symptoms in mothers of premature infants
- Psychosomatics – The relationship between acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder in the neonatal intensive care unit
- Hand to Hold – Understanding PTSD: When the Stress of the NICU Persists
- CMAJ: Effectiveness of a parent “buddy” program for mothers of very preterm infants in a neonatal intensive care unit
- J Perinatol – Recommendations for peer-to-peer support for NICU parents