Admission of a new born to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a stressful and unexpected event to most parents. This quantitative study aimed at identifying factors that contribute to stress in mothers nursing babies in the NICU at the Women and New Born Hospital in Zambia. A cross sectional study was conducted among 280 mothers who were randomly selected over a three-month period. Stress levels were assessed using Parental Stressor Scale: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (PSS: NICU) questionnaire. Informed consent was obtained from the mothers for the study. Inclusion criteria for the study were mothers of admitted neonates and their neonates who had to remain in the NICU for at least 24 h. Stata software version 13 was used to analyse data Chi square test to determine association between stress and maternal and infant characteristics. Kruskal wallis test was used to determine association between subscales of the PSS: NICU tool and interquartile and median were calculated since the data was not normally distributed. Results revealed that participants were more stressed by alteration of the parental role and the appearance and behaviour of their neonate. All participants rated admission of the neonate as being stressful. Maternal characteristics that were associated with stress included education level and duration of stay in Kruskal-Wallis test showed a statistical difference between the stress subscales with alteration of parental role being the most stressful subscale. Mothers have different stress levels with most of them experiencing moderate and extreme stress; appropriate counselling targeted towards specific stressors identified is required. The limitation of this study is that it did not monitor levels of stress at different times of admission Future research should monitor how maternal stress changes throughout the neonate’s NICU stay. This information can be used to design effective support programme to help mothers adopt coping strategies during their infant’s hospitalization.
Key words: Maternal stressors, neonatal intensive care, Stressor Parental Stressor Scale: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (PSS: NICU).
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