Unresolved grief after premature birth can risk infant-mother attachment
MedWire News: Women who resolve their grief about having a preterm infant are almost three times more likely to have formed a secure attachment with their baby by 16 months post-term than women with unresolved grief, show US study results.
Lead author Prachi Shah (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) explained: "When a baby is born prematurely, the developmental prognosis is often not known for many years-it evolves over time."
Shah and colleagues liken having a preterm infant to having a child with a disability, saying: "The mother must adjust her expectations and hopes for her child in the face of uncertainties, and she must mourn the hoped-for child while still embracing the child she has."
The team assessed markers of maternal depression postbirth, including Reaction to Preterm Birth Interview (RPBI) findings, and infant-mother attachment at 16 months post-term, among 74 preterm (gestational age <36 weeks) infants and their mothers.
The majority (n = 50) of mothers exhibited resolved grief on the RPBI at 9 months, note the researchers, and half (n = 37) of infants were classified as securely attached to their mothers at 16 months.
However, compared with mothers with resolved grief, the risk for insecure infant attachment was increased 1.59-fold for mothers with unresolved grief, and rose to 2.94 when covariates including neonatal health were accounted for in analysis.
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By Sarah Guy