Mental Health Care is Important
If you are struggling right now, we want you to know that this is normal. It is temporary. And you can feel better.
Having a baby in the NICU can be a profoundly traumatic experience for both your baby and YOU. It may leave you feeling sad, guilty, overwhelmed, irritable, or unable to relax and enjoy your developing relationship with your new baby. You may feel more tired than usual yet unable to get a good night’s sleep, you may be uninterested in eating, or you may have trouble thinking clearly and making decisions. You may even experience flashbacks or nightmares about some of the more unsettling experiences you had, or find your heart racing with anxiety for reasons you don’t completely understand.
We have partnered with Mental Health America to bring you their useful, quick and easy screening tools, which are short, confidential questionnaires, to determine whether you are might be experiencing a mental health condition like depression, anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A positive score on a screening questionnaire does not mean you have a specific diagnosis. It just gives an idea of whether you have any of the feelings associated with the various conditions.
Each of these conditions is real, and in fact, they are much more common in NICU parents than in other parents, due to the stressful experience of having a baby in the NICU. Sometimes these conditions become apparent only AFTER your baby has been discharged from the NICU; in fact, you may not notice these disturbing feelings until years after your baby has come home with you. It is important that your uncomfortable feelings be recognized and treated, because being depressed, anxious or overly stressed can interfere with your developing relationship with your baby or other members of your family. You owe it to yourself, your baby and your family to get help if you need it.
Once you have taken the screening, return here for more resources.
- If your baby is still in the NICU, we recommend discussing results of your screening test with the NICU social worker or psychologist, or even the neonatologist or chaplain. Any of these professionals should be able to help you and direct you to further resources in your baby’s hospital or in your community.
- If your baby is already at home, you can contact your OB/Gyn provider, your family doctor, or your child’s pediatrician. Again, they can refer you to local resources.
- Return to our page on Mental Health resources on this site for handouts you can read and download about depression and PTSD, and other links to helpful organizations.