National Perinatal Association Issues 2015 Interdisciplinary Recommendations For Psychosocial Support Of NICU Parents

Nov 24, 2015, 10:00 ET from National Perinatal Association

LONEDELL, Mo., Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A sweeping set of recommendations aimed at improving psychosocial support of parents whose babies are hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) appear in a Supplement to the December, 2015 issue Journal of Perinatology, published by Nature Publishing Group.  The 86 interdisciplinary recommendations in six different topic areas were developed by a workgroup convened by the National Perinatal Association (NPA) beginning in January, 2014.  More than fifty people, including professionals from a variety of disciplines as well as former NICU parents, worked together to craft the recommendations.

The comprehensive recommendations emphasize the importance of the interdisciplinary nature of perinatal care with a focus on continuity of care from the antepartum period through follow-up.  Areas of focus for the recommendations include:  expanding family-centered developmental care, ensuring the availability of peer support for all parents, defining the role of mental health professionals, ensuring that palliative and bereavement care services are widely available, improving discharge planning and post-discharge support, and making education of NICU staff in parent support techniques as well as self-care mandatory.

"The goal of the recommendations is to ensure that equal importance is given to the psychosocial support of families and NICU staff as to the medical care of babies," said Dr. Sue Hall, neonatologist in Oxnard, CA and Co-Chair of the workgroup. "The recommendations set the stage as a roadmap for how NICUs should be transformed."

Having a baby in the NICU can be a traumatic experience for parents. Many parents experience a variety of stresses, including worrying about their baby's life and health while also worrying about the financial implications of their baby's hospitalization. Some of these parents will develop postpartum depression (PPD) and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at higher rates than other new parents, and their distress can interfere with the normal process of bonding between parent and baby.  Impaired bonding can in turn jeopardize the baby's long-term physical, social and emotional development.  The benefits of psychosocial support in this group of parents have been well documented, and yet there are no national program standards to guide healthcare professionals in how to best provide this support.  At the same time, doctors and nurses caring for these fragile babies are themselves under stress due to the high-stakes nature of the care they provide, and they, too, can benefit from support. 

Dr. Mike Hynan, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, also a workgroup Co-Chair, is especially pleased that a primary recommendation is for larger NICUs to have psychologists on their staff to address psychological needs of both parents as well as staff.  Dr. Hynan wrote, "Intensifying the focus in the NICU on the emotional well-being of parents is the next frontier.  Movement towards this goal will also be aided by a NICU culture which values the emotional well-being of all staff, encouraged to work together in an interdisciplinary fashion."

Currently 28 professional and parent support organizations have indicated their support for the workgroup's recommendations.  The issue of Journal of Perinatology in which the recommendations are published can be found at http://www.nature.com/jp/journal/v35/n1s/index.html#rv. In addition, the NPA workgroup has created an online resource center with materials available for both parents and professionals, at www.support4NICUparents.org.  

About the National Perinatal Association
The National Perinatal Association (NPA) gives voice to the needs of pregnant women, infants, and their families and their healthcare providers by bringing together stakeholders that collectively can have the greatest positive impact on perinatal care in the United States.

NPA's diverse membership is comprised of healthcare providers and caregivers, educators and service providers, all driven by their desire to give voice to and support babies and families at risk across the country.

SOURCE National Perinatal Association



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