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date: 24 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines parental responses to pregnancy complications and having a high-risk infant. Women with high-risk pregnancies have more depressive symptoms, stress, and anxiety than healthy pregnant women. They experience shock, worry, sadness, frustration, anger, guilt, and grief; perform fewer health-promoting behaviors; and have less intense maternal–fetal attachment. Parents also experience emotional distress after the birth of a high-risk infant, including worry about infant survival and outcomes, stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, grief, hostility, and powerlessness. Distressed parents perceive their infants more negatively and are less sensitive in interactions than nondistressed parents. Several postnatal interventions have been implemented to ameliorate these negative responses. Overall, the responses of mothers to a high-risk pregnancy or birth of a high-risk infant are remarkably similar. More needs to be known about the effect of the parent’s past history, paternal responses, responses of minorities, experiences of parents of high-risk full-term infants, and interventions to ameliorate negative parental responses.

Keywords: Parents, mothers, psychological distress, pregnancy complications, high-risk infant, prematurity, NICU, high-risk pregnancy, depression, anxiety

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