Parents of premature babies are more likely to experience depression after birth

A recent study has found that mothers and fathers of pre-term babies are 10 times more likely to experience depression after birth than parents of full-term babies.

Mother and baby resting.

The weeks after birth can be a stressful and anxious time for parents, particularly if their baby is born prematurely.

Prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal death in the UK and many preterm babies suffer lifelong health problems. .

 A recent study focusing on parents of babies born at 30 weeks gestation or less has found that mothers and fathers of pre-term babies are 10 times more likely to experience depression after birth than parents of full-term babies.

Babies who are born before the full gestation period are not fully developed and can often experience difficulty breathing and digesting food immediately after birth which can be extremely stressful for parents.

On top of the exhaustion parents   experience after a traumatic birth, it is very common to experience feelings of grief, anger and heightened anxiety. For some parents, the strain of coping after premature birth can be overwhelming and makes it difficult to cope with day-to-day-life.

At Tommy's, we understand what an overwhelming time this can be for parents. We launched the UK's first free app to help support parents in every aspect of their preemie's care, and this includes information on looking after themselves. 

Lead study author Dr. Carmen Pace of The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia wants people to be aware that sometimes these feelings or symptoms can disappear over time:

“Our findings show that it is common for parents to be distressed in the weeks following very preterm birth, but it is also important to note that distress does tend to improve over time for most parents.”

While these feelings may pass for some new parents, it is important to recognise when they don’t go away, especially if they are causing you distress and affecting your daily life. It is important to remember that your emotional health is just as important as your physical health.

If you find yourself struggling to cope after a difficult birth then do not hesitate to talk to your doctors or another health professional that you trust.  They will be able to provide with the help and support that you need in order to get the right treatment for you.


  • Read more about depression after premature birth 
  • Read more about Tommy’s research into premature birth here
  • Read more about coping with life after premature birth here
  • Read more about getting support with mental health here


Information and support for parents of premature babies

  • World Prematurity Day 2018

    The problem of premature birth in the UK needs to be addressed. Too many parents are currently enduring this anxious experience that can have a lasting impact.

  • Premature baby.

    Premature birth - information and support

    A 'premature' or 'preterm' baby is one that is born before 37 weeks. If your baby is born early they may need special care as they may not be fully developed.

More on our prematurity research

  • Tommy's Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic

    The London Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic

    Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic at St Thomas' Hospital provides specialist care to pregnant women who are at high risk of having their baby early.

  • researcher looking at samples in the Tommy's London centre

    Tommy's London Research Centre

    At our London Research Centre at Kings College London and St Thomas' Hospital, our internationally renowned clinicians focus on understanding and preventing premature birth. The team also carry out cutting-edge research into pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and hypertension.

  • Nurse monitoring premature baby in hospital

    Research into premature birth

    Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. These babies are vulnerable – they are born before they have grown to cope with the outside world. Tommy’s is saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.

  • Premature birth statistics

    A preterm birth is one that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth.


    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

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