Study finds mum’s of premature baby’s are five times more likely to suffer depression, even eight years after their children are born.

The study, conducted at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, tracked mothers and babies who received nine-monthly visits from a psychologist and a physiotherapist in the first year of the children’s lives and compared them to a control group who did not receive that help, reports ABC News.

It found 27 per cent of the mothers who were not given the intervention had symptoms of depression and 42 per cent had symptoms of anxiety.

“It really is surprising and way too high, the rates of depression and anxiety that we are seeing at this age, and we definitely do need to be intervening earlier,” said lead researcher, Associate Professor Alicia Spittle from the Royal Women’s Hospital and University of Melbourne.

“A really important part of our program was to support the parent-infant relationship, because you can imagine having a baby who is born early and has spent two, three, four months in hospital, that that relationship between the mother and baby and bond can be affected,” Dr Spittle said.

Dr Spittle said mothers of premature babies often do not attend mothers’ groups, which help with mental wellbeing, because their babies are too unwell or will be overstimulated.

“If you’ve got a baby who you are concerned might get an infection, catch a cold, these mothers were more likely to stay at home and feel a little bit more isolated,” she said.

“They don’t want people asking questions as to why is your baby on oxygen, or why is your baby smaller than other babies, and so rather always than being confronted with these questions, in some ways, it’s easier to withdraw.

“But then that can be associated with increased signs of depression and anxiety as well.”

Around Australia, 25,000 babies are born premature — that is before 37 weeks — every year and the survival rates for the really tiny babies are getting better all the time.

“Our interventions were only nine sessions over the first year of life and we’re seeing long-lasting effects,” Dr Spittle said.

“I would encourage the government health professionals and parents themselves — seek intervention, it actually does make a difference long term.”

For support contact Life’s Little Treasures 24-hour support line for parents of premature babies is 1300 697 736

OR PANDA on 1300 726 306 http://www.panda.org.au/

Share your comments below.

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  • I didn’t have a premmie baby but I suffered with anxiety for a long time.


  • Interesting article. Hopefully doctors have been updated and will look out for this in parents years down the line.


  • I can imagine it’s possible indeed. Parents of premature baby suffer much more stress compared to full term babies.


  • As the mother of a prem (13 weeks early) I can see how this is possible – it is a tough challenging time for the whole family…..


  • I have 2 prems and have had to fight just to get them to be seen by the paeds! No other care has been offered to me other than the stock standard after birth checks


  • Interesting ! My daughter was born 10 weeks early with a birth weight of 880 grams. Luckily I didn’t suffer PND.


  • I really do feel like there is some sound research and evidence behind this. I can understand the circumstances, as I am the mum of a prematurely born baby.


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