After the death of an infant or child in the NICU or PICU, immediate attention is paid to grieving parents. Soon after leaving the hospital, however, support diminishes and eventually disappears. Researchers from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences recently published a study in the journal Pediatrics reporting how parents function more than one year after the death.

Parents of 188 deceased infants and children were followed for 13 months after the death of their child. Home visits at one, three, six and 13 months were used to collect parent data. Physical health records were also tracked for all participants. Mothers averaged 32 years of age and fathers 37 years of age. The majority of parents were minority.

Conclusion: By the end of the 13-month period, 72% of couples remained married. Ninety-eight hospitalizations were reported; stress accounted for 29% of hospitalizations. More than 130 new chronic health problems were diagnosed, including clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One mother attempted suicide within the first six months. Researchers believe parents need support follow the death of an infant or child in the NICU or PICU.

Source: Youngblut JM, Brooten D, Cantwell GP, Del Moral T, Totapally B. Parent Health and Functioning 13 Months After Infant or Child NICU/PICU Death. Pediatrics. 2013 Oct 7. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-1194.