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The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Environmental Stressors and Supports

School of Medicine, Mercer University, 1550 College Street, Macon, GA 31207, USA
Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Academic Research Coordinator, 2222 Cherry St. Suite 1300 MOB 2, Toledo, OH 43608, USA
College of Health Professions, Mercer University, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, GA 31404, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(1), 60;
Received: 13 November 2017 / Revised: 18 December 2017 / Accepted: 21 December 2017 / Published: 3 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion)
PDF [699 KB, uploaded 3 January 2018]


The relationship between maternal mental health and infant development has been established in the literature. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a particularly challenging environment for new mothers as several natural processes are disrupted. The objective of this study is to elucidate protective factors and environmental deficits associated with the NICU. The experiences of forty-six (n = 46) mothers of infants admitted to a Level III NICU in the Midwestern United States, who responded to a related open-ended question, were analyzed thematically. Five themes related to the NICU environment emerged as being either stressful or helpful: (1) amount and quality of communication with medical staff, (2) bedside manner of medical staff, (3) feeling alienated from infant’s care, (4) support from other NICU mothers and families, and (5) NICU Physical Environment and Regulations. There is a need for medical staff training on awareness, communication, empathy, and other behaviors that might improve maternal (and parental) experiences in the NICU. The physical environment, including rules and regulations of the NICU, should be reexamined with family comfort in mind in addition to the clinical care of the infant. View Full-Text
Keywords: NICU; NICU environment; maternal mental health; maternal functioning NICU; NICU environment; maternal mental health; maternal functioning

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Williams, K.G.; Patel, K.T.; Stausmire, J.M.; Bridges, C.; Mathis, M.W.; Barkin, J.L. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Environmental Stressors and Supports. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 60.

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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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