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New mental health diagnoses in parents of infants admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit—a retrospective review of the Military Health System database

Abstract

Objective

Studies suggest that parents of NICU infants are at increased risk of mental health disorders. We sought to characterize this risk using a large database.

Study design

The Military Health System was used to retrospectively link records between parents and infants admitted to a NICU over 5 years and were matched to similar families without NICU exposure. The total study population included 35,012 infants. Logistic regression was used to estimate the association between NICU exposure and parental mental health diagnoses within 5 years of infant birth.

Results

Maternal NICU exposure was associated with incident diagnoses of depression (OR: 1.18–1.27, p < 0.0001), anxiety (OR: 1.06–1.18, p = 0.0151), alcohol/opiate dependence (OR: 1.29–1.52, p = 0.0079), and adjustment disorder (OR: 0.97–1.18, p = 0.0224). Paternal NICU exposure was associated with alcohol/opiate dependence (OR: 0.78–1.42, p = 0.0339).

Conclusion

Parents of NICU infants are at risk of developing mental health disorders. Future work should identify characteristics that predict highest risk to develop effective interventions.

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Fig. 1: Mental health conditions in parent population.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

BJF contributed to study design and conceptualization, data interpretation, initial drafting of the manuscript, and critical review and revision of the manuscript. AME and TMR contributed to study design and conceptualization, data collection and initial analysis, data interpretation and critical review and revision of the manuscript. CMG contributed to study design and conceptualization and critical review and revision of the manuscript. RLR and SER-T contributed to study design and conceptualization, data interpretation, and critical review and revision of the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bethany J. Farr.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

This project was approved through the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Institutional Review Board (Protocol Identification: NMCP.2019.0015). Subject consent was not required, and all data are de-identified. This study was performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

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Farr, B.J., Evans, A.M., Rush, T.M. et al. New mental health diagnoses in parents of infants admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit—a retrospective review of the Military Health System database. J Perinatol 42, 738–744 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-022-01331-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-022-01331-7

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