Postpartum Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in the NICU: Prevalence and Contributing Factors

Open Access
Perhamus, Gretchen Rae
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Ginger A Moore, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jeff M Love, Honors Advisor
  • postpartum depression
  • ppd
  • ptsd
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • neonatal intensive care unit
  • NICU
This study aimed to identify factors related to symptoms of Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in mothers whose infants were admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), with an emphasis on the role of breastfeeding in the NICU context. Mothers (N=22) were assessed for symptoms of PPD and PTSD, life stress, and feeding practices at 1, 2, 4, and 5-24 months postpartum using questionnaires. Retrospective data concerning PPD and PTSD symptoms during the first trimester were assessed with phone interviews. Clinical levels of PPD and PTSD were high and strongly related within time points. Life stress was more strongly associated with PPD than with PTSD symptoms. Contrary to predictions, feeding method was largely not associated with PPD or PTSD symptomology. Qualitative data concerning feeding challenges highlighted four common themes: presence or absence of hospital support, lack of control over the situation, feelings of incompetence or failure as a mother, and logistical difficulties. Mentioning a lack of hospital support for feeding or emotional challenges was associated with more symptoms of both conditions, suggesting the importance of hospital support for healthy coping in this population.