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Premature baby via Shutterstock

Seven in ten parents of premature babies want more psychological support

Some 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland each year.

SEVEN IN TEN families of premature babies want more access to psychological and emotional support.

That’s one of several findings reached by new research that looked into how families are affected by premature births.

Some 152 parents participated in the survey – 56 of whom were parents of pre-term babies.

Both parents of full-term and premature babies said they would look to a nurse as the first choice of counsellor to help cope with physical and emotional stress.

The research also found that 42% of pre-term parents indicated that their income was reduced due to decreased working hours in order to care for their infant. Almost 80% said that the additional hospital admissions, doctors’ visits and travel had also been a significant financial burden.

One in five parents of pre-term babies have missed more than three weeks of work (beyond their allocated paternity or maternity leave).

Some 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland each year. The National Neonatal Transport Programme Service has transported 482 premature infants to hospital since the implementation of the 24/7 service 11 months ago.

Other findings from the research include:

  • 3 out of 10 pre-term babies spend over three months in hospital immediately after birth and almost a quarter were in-patients for five to ten weeks;
  • When speaking about their children, parents of premature babies used words like ‘anxiety’ (57%), ‘stress’ (55%), ‘fear’ (50%) and ‘isolation’ (38%), while full-term parents used phrases like ‘joy’, delighted’, or ‘happiness’ (64%);
  • A third of parents of premature babies say that having a pre-term infant has made them less likely to have more children. However, half say that it has not changed their view on having more children;
  • Three in ten of parents are worried about long-term health complications for their children who were born prematurely, while just over a quarter are worried their child lagging behind in intellectual development;
  • Pre-term parents are more comfortable obtaining information about the risks of premature births from neonatologists or paediatricians while parents of full term babies prefer information from their GP or primary physician;

The research was conducted to mark World Prematurity Day which takes place next Monday, 17 November.

A new model of care for premature babies is due to be published next year.


Professor John Murphy of the Neonatology Unit in the National Maternity Hospital presented the draft Standards of Care model for all babies born in Ireland at an event in Dublin this morning.

He said that the new plan will ensure that infants receive standardised care no matter where they’re born in the country and that babies are transported to larger hospitals when required and brought back to the referring hospital when they’ve been treated successfully.

Mandy Daly, Director of Advocacy and Policy Making at the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance, noted that the new care model represents “a wonderful opportunity to put families and their little heroes at the heart of everything”.

“Parents of pre-term infants are vulnerable and emotionally fragile but by ensuring that the family is actively involved in a family integrated care model in the best possible environment we can best serve both parents and child,” Daly stated.

The research was conducted in August and September on behalf of the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA) and biopharmaceutical company AbbVie.

Former patients and families honour World Prematurity Day

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