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We Need to Talk About PTSD in NICU Parents

Parenthood is directly linked to the feelings of excitement and awe in an individual’s life, but that sheer happiness is often disrupted with the fact when one gets to know that the baby born is premature.  All the zeal and intensity of ecstatic emotions become static, and suddenly NICU becomes homes for parents for weeks or even months. NICU be described as Neonatal Intensive Care where many premature babies are laid in enclosed incubators struggling for the next breath at the edge of their lives. All the wires tangled, buzzers, beeps of the machines, humming of the ventilator add to the worry and fear of what is going to happen next.  The unpredictable life is ruling the unit with its call for any child.

Feeling of the void, despair and emptiness linger and become overwhelming for the grieving parents who have to leave their fragile babies in the unit.

It is no surprise to say that parents who experience premature birth are likely to confront anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of co-morbidity of any of them. Hospital staff and members become a support network for the parents, but they are not able to stay for them 24/7. Days and nights go by but some nights become hard to get through as they hit the shins with the harsh reality of how the life of the parents is struggling for his own life.

PTSD comes with the flashbacks. Even when the baby is discharged, and the parents are happily home, PTSD stays. Friends and family may think that the hard times are behind your back and you are cutting the worries lose but they do not understand the functions of PTSD. As the name itself suggests “Post Traumatic”, it gives you the flashback of the incident which happened to you a while ago, but the memories of it haunt you time and again and this is the function of PTSD. The reality of becoming a parent at NICU can never be changed, and it keeps you from interacting usual with other parents.

Parents who experience premature birth think that they are the only ones who experienced it.

They confine themselves into the fine lines of depression and anxiety with the upper hand of PTSD. But they are yet to know that they are not the only ones. There are many other parents just like them who suffer from premature birth and symptoms of PTSD later. More than 40% mothers experience postnatal depression which is a depression faced by the females after giving birth to their babies. And out of 40%, more than half of them report the symptoms of anxiety and PTSD. Still, no one speaks out loud about this mental disorder and about the complications mothers go through. They hide away in their dens with the fear of being not listened to and understood.

NICU may remain a place to induce emotions difficult to understand, but only by speaking up openly, one can be heard. By raising the voice against these mentally severe disorders, some action plan must be developed. This may take years or decades to pace for the mental well-being of parents but at the end of the day it is going to pay off in a good manner, and the struggle will be appreciated.

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