Becoming a parent to a child with birth asphyxia—From a traumatic delivery to living with the experience at home

Queen Silvia Children's Hospital, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden
International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being (Impact Factor: 0.93). 04/2013; 8(1):1-13. DOI: 10.3402/qhw.v8i0.20539
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study is to describe the experiences of becoming a parent to a child with birth asphyxia treated with hypothermia in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In line with the medical advances, the survival of critically ill infants with increased risk of morbidity is increasing. Children who survive birth asphyxia are at a higher risk of functional impairments, cerebral palsy (CP), or impaired vision and hearing. Since 2006, hypothermia treatment following birth asphyxia is used in many of the Swedish neonatal units to reduce the risk of brain injury. To date, research on the experience of parenthood of the child with birth asphyxia is sparse. To improve today's neonatal care delivery, health-care providers need to better understand the experiences of becoming a parent to a child with birth asphyxia. A total of 26 parents of 16 children with birth asphyxia treated with hypothermia in a Swedish NICU were interviewed. The transcribed interview texts were analysed according to a qualitative latent content analysis. We found that the experience of becoming a parent to a child with birth asphyxia treated with hypothermia at the NICU was a strenuous journey of overriding an emotional rollercoaster, that is, from being thrown into a chaotic situation which started with a traumatic delivery to later processing the difficult situation of believing the child might not survive or was to be seriously affected by the asphyxia. The prolonged parent-infant separation due to the hypothermia treatment and parents' fear of touching the infant because of the high-tech equipment seemed to hamper the parent-infant bonding. The adaption of the everyday life at home seemed to be facilitated by the follow-up information of the doctor after discharge. The results of this study underline the importance of family-centered support during and also after the NICU discharge.

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