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A Nurse Who Lends an Ear May Ease Anxiety in Moms of Preemies

Private talk sessions with a NICU nurse improved new mothers' depression, self-esteem.

A Nurse Who Lends an Ear May Ease Anxiety in Moms of Preemies

TUESDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- One-on-one talks with nurses help mothers of premature infants cope with feelings of anxiety, confusion and doubt, a new study reveals.

"Having a prematurely born baby is like a nightmare for the mother," Lisa Segre, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Nursing, said in a university news release. "You're expecting to have a healthy baby, and suddenly you're left wondering whether he or she is going to live."

Segre and a colleague investigated whether women with premature babies would benefit from having a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse sit with them and listen to their concerns and fears.

The study included 23 mothers with premature infants who received an average of five 45-minute one-on-one sessions with a NICU nurse and study co-author Rebecca Siewert.

"The mothers wanted to tell their birth stories," Siewert said in the news release. "They wanted someone to understand what it felt like for their babies to be whisked away from them. They were very emotional."

The sessions reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in the women, and boosted their self-esteem, according to the study published online recently in the Journal of Perinatology.

The findings show that "listening matters" when it comes to helping mothers of premature infants, Segre said.

"These mothers are stressed out, and they need someone to listen to them," she explained.

She and Siewert believe nurses are well-suited for the role.

"Listening is what nurses have done their whole career," Siewert said. "We've always been the ones to listen and try to problem solve. So, I just think it was a wonderful offshoot of what nursing can do. We just need the time to do it."

More information

The March of Dimes offers advice for parents of infants in the NICU.  

SOURCE: University of Iowa, news release, Oct. 1, 2013

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