Stress and symptoms of depression in fathers of infants admitted to the NICU.

Document Type


Publication Date



Pediatrics, Intensive Care, Nursing

Journal Title

Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing: Clinical Scholarship for the Care of Women, Childbearing Families, & Newborns

MeSH Headings

Fathers, Hospital Admission, Stress, Major Depression



To describe perceived stress and symptoms of depression in fathers of infants admitted to the NICU through 2 months after discharge and to explore associations between fathers' childhood and current relationships with their own parents and their stress and symptoms of depression.


Observational, longitudinal.


Tertiary care center in northeastern United States.


English-speaking fathers of newborns admitted to the NICU.


Fathers completed the Parental Stress Scale and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at infants' NICU admissions (Time [T] 1), 3 weeks (T2), discharge (T3), and 2 months after discharge (T4).


A total of 146 fathers were enrolled between March 2013 and February 2016. Infants' mean gestational age at birth was 31.9 weeks, and 88% remained in the NICU for 3 weeks or longer. We found that 12% of fathers reported high stress levels at T1, 8% at T3, and 13% at T4. Overall EPDS scores improved over time (p < .001). From T1 to T4, the proportion of fathers with distress/minor symptoms of depression decreased from 41% to 10% and with symptoms of major depression from 16% to 2%. Statistically significant positive associations were found between fathers' EPDS scores and the quality of relationships with their fathers (at T1, T2, and T3) and with their mothers (across all time points).


From admission to 2 months after discharge, stress and symptoms of depression persisted for some fathers of infants admitted to the NICU. Evidence-based strategies to support fathers during and after their infants' NICU hospitalizations need to be further developed, implemented, and evaluated.

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