The Relationship between Infant Prematurity and Parental Anxiety: A Systematic Review
Prematurity refers to the birth of a baby before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. This can be related to considerable parental anxiety and mental status changes. Anxiety can manifest as worrying thoughts, feelings of tension, and altered vital signs. This review aims to analyze the relationship between premature birth and parental anxiety, focusing on the emotional status of both mothers and fathers. The review was performed using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis 2020 guidelines. A search was undertaken in PubMed, PubMed Central, MEDLINE, and ScienceDirect. Screening of articles was carried out to find relevant and appropriate articles. Articles were then quality-checked before inclusion. Our analysis showed that mothers of preterm infants had greater symptoms of anxiety, and comorbid anxiety and depression, than mothers of term infants. Mothers of preterm infants 5 years after discharge showed long-term consequences of stress and anxiety, including inappropriate responses and reduced praise for their children. Mothers of preterm multiples were more likely to experience stress and anxiety than mothers of preterm singletons. Fathers of preterm infants experienced higher levels of stress than fathers of term infants, but fathers of preterm infants experienced less stress than mothers of preterm infants. These findings suggest that routine mental health screening and intervention should be undertaken for both mothers and fathers of preterm infants.