Parents with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are at increased risk of experiencing symptoms of traumatic stress, sometimes rising to the level of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress symptoms are most often caused by real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum, including having a baby in the NICU. Women with complications during childbirth or a history of trauma are at increased risk of experiencing postpartum post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Symptoms are different for everyone and may include:
- Intrusive re-experiencing of a traumatic event – visual images in your mind that pop up frequently
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoiding things associated with the trauma including thoughts, feelings, people and places associated with it
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Persistent increased arousal – irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response
- Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
If you notice that you are experiencing some of the above symptoms, talk to your hospital Social Worker, your doctor, or a therapist to get help.
Postpartum Support International, www.postpartum.net
Kara Hansen, LSCSW, LCSW, PMH-C