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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reducing parental trauma and stress in neonatal intensive care: systematic review and meta-analysis of hospital interventions

  • Author(s): Sabnis, Animesh
  • et al.


To classify NICU interventions for parental distress and quantify their effectiveness.


We systematically reviewed controlled studies published before 2017 measuring NICU parental distress, defined broad intervention categories, and used random-effects meta-analysis to quantify treatment effectiveness.


Among 1643 unique records, 58 eligible trials predominantly studied mothers of preterm infants. Interventions tested in 22 randomized trials decreased parental distress (p < 0.001) and demonstrated improvement beyond 6 months (p < 0.005). In subgroup analyses, complementary/alternative medicine and family-centered instruction interventions each decreased distress symptoms (p < 0.01), with fathers and mothers improving to similar extents. Most psychotherapy studies decreased distress individually but did not qualify for meta-analysis as a group.


NICU interventions modestly reduced parental distress. We identified family-centered instruction as a target for implementation and complementary/alternative medicine as a target for further study. Investigators must develop psychosocial interventions that serve NICU parents at large, including fathers and parents of full-term infants.

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