FRIDAY, June 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Parents with a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are at risk for depression, with fathers not seeing the same improvement in symptoms postdischarge as mothers, according to a study published online June 18 in Pediatrics.

Craig F. Garfield, M.D., from the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and colleagues examined the trajectory and risk factors for depressive symptoms among 431 parents of premature infants (<37 weeks of gestation) in the NICU.

The researchers found that 33 percent of mothers and 17 percent of fathers had a positive Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale screening. NICU-to-home scores decreased for both mothers and fathers. However, from admission to 30 days after discharge, scores for mothers decreased 10.96 times, while scores for fathers decreased at a lower and nonsignificant rate. Screening at admission or discharge improved 30-day depressive symptom prediction (area under the curve [AUC] for baseline demographics only, 0.66; AUC for baseline demographics plus initial screening, 0.84; AUC for baseline demographics plus discharge screening, 0.80).

“We need programs in the NICU that universally screen both parents for depression, proactively educate the family about potential symptoms, and offer mental health support during this stressful time in the NICU, leading up to discharge and after going home,” Garfield said in a statement.

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