Make checks for PTSD standard practice for parents of NICU babies.
PTSD can affect anyone who has lived through a traumatic experience and it is more common than many think in parents of premature babies. And those who have endured a stay in NeoNatal.
Seeing your baby struggle for life, having to leave them day after day after day after day in NeoNatal, having to continue to live your life whilst in utter limbo, unable to hold your baby, unable to care for them yourself, the entire experience can have long lasting implications for your own mental health. When this is compounded by an increased likelihood of further health complications and hospital admissions it’s no wonder that a recent survey by BLISS (3018) found that 16% of parents of babies who have stayed in NICU suffered from PTSD.
This is already a devastatingly high percentage but the sad truth is it’s probably only the tip of the ice berg.
There is no mandatory assessment for PTSD in NICU parents, you are left unaware that this may happen to you and unsure of what to do. You feel alone, isolated and a little crazy and so you carry on. You carry on with the flashbacks, the traumatic memories, the nightmares and you think from a place of hope that one day you will “get over it” but the majority of the time help is required in the form of CBT or EMDR therapy to help you process the trauma and learn how to cope with life with PTSD, you need help.
Many don’t ever ask for that help though, many suffer in silence and it has to stop. With one simple questionnaire at your babies 6 month and 12 month checkups so many more cases of PTSD can be flagged and help can be provided in those early months. Many areas of the UK ask new mothers to complete a questionnaire for PND with their health visitor and while like all questionnaires this is not always an accurate diagnostic, a PTSD questionnaire as a required practice for NICU parents could help save so many families years of trauma and mental ill health.
Just one simple questionnaire at an appointment which is already scheduled at those two key milestones for your baby. Minimal cost to implement but with a potentially huge impact.
If you would like to see this introduced to protect women and indeed fathers from a lifetime of PTSD please sign my petition and help me raise awareness.