1 Department of Public Health - Department of Science in Nursing, Department of Public Health, Health, Aarhus University2 Department of Clinical Medicine - Department of Paediatrics, Department of Clinical Medicine, Health, Aarhus University3 Børneafdeling A, Aarhus Universitets Hospital4 Department of Clinical Medicine - Department of Paediatrics, Department of Clinical Medicine, Health, Aarhus University
Background: Little is known about parents to preterm infants and their self-esteem. The care of preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is in accordance with the principles of Family Centered Care. Previously, focus has mainly been on the mother-infant-dyad. Current research has shown that involving the father at an early stage improves the psychological dynamic of fatherhood and encourages bonding with the infant. The self-esteem of parents appears to be negatively affected after preterm birth. Objective: To get more knowledge and a deeper understanding of the preterm parents’ experiences of their self-esteem during admission to the NICU and later eight months after discharge. Method and data collection: A qualitative semi-structured interview was conducted in two phases: 1) Three weeks after giving birth to a preterm infant and eight months after discharge. Parents were consecutively enrolled into the study. Results: The preliminary findings were created in a theoretical framework of self-esteem understood in a physiological perspective. The interviews showed that individual, relational and structured aspects influenced the parents’ experiences of their self-esteem after birth of their preterm infant. The fathers described feeling torn between taking care of the mother and the infant admitted to the NICU. The mothers experienced difficulties in remembering what happened the first 24 hours after giving birth. The relational aspects affected the relationship between mothers and fathers, the experiences of the relationship to infant and the parents’ experiences of their own self-esteem. Likewise, the support from nurses and from the parents’ own network positively impacted on the parents’ experiences of their parental self-esteem. The structural aspects referred to how the parents experienced the high-technology environment of the NICU. Besides, the parents described that the infant’s needs, medical status and development impacted on their experiences of how they were valued as parents in the NICU-context. Conclusion: The preliminary findings of this study indicate that the parents’ experiences of their self-esteem in the first 24 hours after the birth of a preterm infant are influenced by division (the fathers) and amnesia (the mothers). Later, when the parents build up their sense of parenthood they become very susceptible to the mutual relationship, the relationship to the infant and closest support network. The barriers restricting the parents’ access and contact to the infant were experienced as frustrating.