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Support for Parents with Newborns who are admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Newborns Admitted to the
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit 


Bringing the new baby home from the hospital is an exciting milestone event for every parent. But, what if plans change? It’s very frightening and stressful if the newborn needs to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Babies who need to go to the unit are often admitted within the first 24 hours after birth. Sometimes NICU babies have a condition linked to being born prematurely. The length of time the baby must stay in the NICU depends on the severity of his or her condition.


Studies show there is a deep psychological process of developing a relationship with the unborn baby that begins during the pregnancy. For the first two trimesters, Moms (and Dads) develop a detailed mental imagining of their unborn baby. During the last two months of pregnancy, as part of the normal process of giving birth, Moms begin to let go of their imagined baby, making psychological space for the personality of their real baby.

During a complicated pregnancy and a premature birth, this underlying, natural, psychological process is interrupted. The fantasy of perfect birth and baby comes abruptly to an end, without time for processing the reality. This can cause anxiety, confusion and depression. And of course there is the stress of worry for the baby’s survival.  Often partners discover they are very angry. Very angry with God, with  their partner, with the medical establishment.  

Women need to know it is okay to ask for help.

Anxiety, confusion, depression, and overwhelming fear are all common reactions to the NICU parenting experience. 

But many parents are surprised by the anger that they feel.  It is helpful to realize that anger is a normal emotion in the NICU situation.


Anger can be processed and released in healthy way. Try to recognize that taking it out on your partner is not such a healthy or realistic release. There are other ways, such as exercise, journaling, talking about your feelings, and often a few sessions of counseling will help balance your emotions.


EMDR can be a wonderful mindbody tool to release trauma from the nervous system.

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