Getting a grip in the middle of chaos: Preparing for preterm parenthood during a high-risk pregnancy – Parental experiences and needs

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Aim: Admitting an infant to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is stressful for parents. A great source of stress is the loss of their desired parental role. This study explores parents’ experiences and needs during a high-risk pregnancy in preparation for their role as parents of a preterm infant. Methods: An exploratory qualitative study was conducted among parents with a preterm infant admitted to two level-III NICUs in the Netherlands. A thematic analysis was performed. Results: Nineteen interviews were conducted with parents of preterm infants (26–34 weeks gestational age). Getting a grip in the middle of chaos was identified as the central theme. In the pre-admission phase, coping with potential preterm parenthood was a theme, with coping strategies as subthemes that changed over time from avoidance to being ready to parent a preterm infant. The theme envisioning the NICU emerged in the NICU admission phase, with subthemes preterm care journey and opportunities for involvement fostering parental empowerment. Conclusion: Timing and content of information about a parental role in the NICU should be tailored to the individual expectant parent. A customisable intervention bundle may provide a vision of the NICU and the parents’ active role in care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1324-1330
Number of pages7
JournalActa paediatrica (Oslo, Norway
Issue number7
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • neonatal intensive care units
  • parents
  • premature birth
  • preparation
  • qualitative research

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