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
Get our free app for parents of premature babies. It is the first of its kind in the UK. 'My Premature Baby' is available on all devices (phones, tablets).
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.
This unique Preterm Surveillance Clinic – funded by Tommy's as part of our research in St Thomas' Hospital, London, has won an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize, for its success in reducing the number of premature births in South East London.
Tommy’s prematurity research centre in London is based at St Thomas’ Hospital, where the charity first began. Opened in 1995, it is the first Maternal and Fetal Research Unit in the UK.
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.
A preterm birth is one that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth.