Parents whose babies are born with congenital heart defects face a high risk of developing PTSD, symptoms of trauma and other mental health issues, researchers said recently.
Reviewing data from 10 countries, the
researchers also found that 25 percent to 50 percent of the parents
reported elevated symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and 30
percent to 80 percent reported severe psychological distress.
The PTSD rate among these parents is
approximately 10 times higher than the rate for the general
population in the United States. Only about 18 percent of the
population suffers from an anxiety disorder, and 9.5 percent meets
the criteria for any mood disorder.
The researchers also found that
mothers of children with the heart defects are more affected than
“We’re not 100 percent clear about
why,” Sarah Woolf-King, senior study author and an assistant
professor in the Psychology Department at Syracuse University, said.
“But we think it has to do with,
one, the first surgery typically occurs in the postpartum period when
mothers are already at increased risk for mental health issues and,
two, the care of the sick child can disproportionately fall on the
In conclusion, the research team
recommended more recognition of these parents, who must cope with
their child’s doctor’s appointments, cardiac procedures, hospital
stays, digestive and feeding issues, and higher risk of major
respiratory illness. There’s also the extreme emotional, familial
and financial cost.
“There is a real need for additional
research on the severity, course and persistence of mental health
problems over time,” Woolf-King said.
Untreated, the mental issues can
affect parents and their caregiving abilities for months or years
after the child’s birth.
“The parents need extra support and
mental health treatment that is feasible and accessible,”
Woolf-King said. “One thing that we propose is integrating mental
health screening and treatment into pediatric cardiology care.
Healthcare providers on the front line of treatment for these parents
could play a significant role in connecting them to care.”
Babies with heart disease linked to mental health issues in parents
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