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Preemie Parents More Likely to Feel Depressed

Photodisc/Thinkstock(PRINCETON, N.J.) -- Even after their babies make it home from the hospital, many parents of premature newborns are far from relaxed.

"These parents lose any sense of a normal pregnancy," said Discenza, co-author of The Preemie Parent's Survival Guide to the NICU. "They likely didn't have a baby shower, and that normal exciting baby feeling is tossed out the window and replaced with doctors appointments, home nurse visits, medical equipment going off, and wondering whether they should call 911."

"There's a whole spectrum of inappropriate comments while a preemie is in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and when the baby is finally out," said Discenza.

A new report from, an online patient community website, found that those insensitive or ignorant comments have a very real impact on the parents of premature infants. Out of 630 preemie parents who responded to an online survey, more than half said they had experienced insensitive comments about their baby, contributing to feelings of stress and isolation.

"We really felt like this is one of those things that you don't know about it until you're involved in it in a very personal way," said Brian Loew, CEO of Inspire.  "We hope that the rest of the world will see this and understand that this is an important issue."

"We also hope that others will get a sense that their own experience is not all that unique, and they're not the only ones dealing with this," he said.  "That can help enormously."

About 20 percent of the respondents said that they had lost relationships with one or more people who were important to them.  And experts said women who gave birth to children prematurely were at a much higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"For most families of premature infants, the birth of a new child is no longer just an exciting event, but a complex event that mixes joy with fear, concern [and] disappointment," said Dr. Ian Holzman, chief of the division of newborn medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  "Most of their friends and relatives have little concept of either life in a NICU or the future uncertainties that face premature infants as they grow and develop."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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