Dr. Melnyk introduces herself and explains if it is common for mothers to feel overwhelmed after delivering a premature baby.
Hi. I am Bern Melnyk and I am Dean of the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation. I am also a pediatric nurse practitioner and a child/family psychiatric nurse practitioner.
There are approximately 500,000 premature babies born in the United States every year and when a woman gives birth to a premature baby they are filled with a lot of emotional angst. They are filled with a lot of an uncertainty about what is the course going to look like for that premature baby, and also many women experience guilt as a result of the premature birth.
“Did I do something maybe to cause this premature labor to happen? Could I have done something to prevent this from happening?” What I think is very important for women to understand is those emotions that they experience shortly following the birth of a premature baby, are absolutely normal and that all women who experience pre-term birth go through those particular emotions.
The stresses of parents of pre-term infants are, one, uncertainly. Uncertainly about what is my child going to be like one year from now, two years from now, or five years from now? Another major stressor for parents is uncertainty about how their child is going to emotionally and physically look and behave, and again there are some key differences in that between premature babies and full term babies.
One of the things our program does, our COPE program, is really help parents know what to expect from that premature child as they grow. So instead of looking at those behaviors or physical characteristics as abnormal, the parents can look at their children and say, I knew that’s what it was, in terms of what to expect, that’s normal for a preemie. And when they know what’s normal and what’s not normal there’s much less anxiety.
Thirdly, a major stressor for parents of preemies again, is loss of parent role. Again, not knowing, I mean all during pregnancy what do moms think about? “I am going to have this healthy, Gerber-looking baby”, and all of a sudden when they are unexpectedly in premature labor and give birth to a preemie that baby doesn’t look anything like the Gerber healthy baby they were expecting and they don’t know how to get involved in care for that baby.
So those are the three stressors. Again, our COPE program outlines major tips in terms of how to deal with those things and again, how to get involved and start parenting your preemie in a way that will really help him or her develop and grow.
About Dr. Melnyk, Ph.D., R.N.:
Dr. Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, Ph.D., R.N., is Dean and Distinguished Foundation Professor in Nursing at the Arizona State University College of Nursing & Health Innovation. She is noted for her dedication to improving the health of children and teens, educational and research innovation, interdisciplinary healthcare, and evidence-based practice to deliver quality patient outcomes.
Dr. Melnyk earned a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree from the West Virginia University School of Nursing, a Master’s of Science in nursing with a specialization in nursing care of children as a pediatric nurse practitioner from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in clinical nursing research from the University of Rochester (New York). She also has completed her post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.