Mental and Emotional preparation



Psychosocial needs of parents of infants admitted to neonatal care 

Gill Thomson, Rebecca Nowland, Morgan Irving 

Parents who have a premature (born <37 weeks gestation) or sick infant that requires admission to a neonatal unit often have higher levels of poor mental health such as elevated rates of depression, stress and anxiety when compared to parents of term infants. Poor parental mental health can disrupt the normative transition to parenthood and has negative implications for parent-infant relationships and infant developmental outcomes. 


You might know ahead of time that your baby will be born early or with health problems. 

For example, you might be in hospital or on bed rest for pregnancy complications that make a premature or complicated birth likely. You might be having twins or higher multiples. Or antenatal scans and tests have shown that your baby has a condition that will affect their health or development. 

When a baby is born too soon or needs to stay in the hospital, it can bring parents into an unfamiliar and sometimes scary situation. They might feel like they have less control over what's happening and have fewer choices to make. The experience of a preterm or traumatic birth can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for parents and can affect how they interact with their child, especially if they weren't ready for it. 

No-one knows exactly what will happen until the time comes, but it’ll help if you’ve thought about the kind of birth, you want and whether it’s still the best option for you and your baby.

You may find there are some things you can do to help you prepare for a premature birth. Here are a few tips that you might find helpful during this time: 

Find support. This is a difficult time for you and your family, so finding the right support for your mental health is important. Ask your neonatal care unit in advance for access to emotional support services; many neonatal units have support services available to parents. You can find a wide range of services and support through our Nurture Program – including our 24-hour support line -Nurture Line on 1300 522 243, our in-hospital service Nurture Time, and our Nurture Information Hub.  

To find out more about these services – visit 

Stay informed. There may be a lot of information to process and sometimes it’s hard to get your head around everything during a stressful time. Asking questions and researching any conditions you, your baby or your partner may have been diagnosed with, and the treatment involved may help to prepare you for what’s to come. Your doctor and midwife can provide you with any information you need and direct you to useful resources. 

Visit the neonatal unit. You might find it useful to visit the neonatal care unit in advance to familiarise yourself with it and get to know the neonatal team that will take care of you and your baby. Some units even offer virtual tours on their website. You can learn more about this special unit for newborns that need extra care in our article all about neonatal care. 

Talk to other parents. Some parents may feel alone in the situation, but there are many parents who have been through the same experience. You might find it helpful or reassuring to talk to other parents who’ve had premature births or spent time in the neonatal care unit. Many parents want to share their stories in order to help other parents of premature or sick babies, like these family stories. 

Get organised. You and your partner might find it helpful to get physically organised before your baby arrives. This may take any pressure off and give you more time to spend with your little one after birth. You could consider packing your hospital bag, organising childcare if you have other children, stocking up your kitchen cupboards or freezer with pre-prepped meals or healthy snacks, and organising any home help you may want or need. 

Remember, whatever you’re feeling right now is completely natural. Reaching out to friends, family or your healthcare team for support during this time may help.  


You might feel confused or overwhelmed in the lead-up to the birth. These strategies that can help you manage strong emotions and stay calm: 

  • Do breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises or mindfulness exercises. 
  • Do activities and hobbies that relax you. For example, listen to relaxing music, go for a walk, paint, read or take a warm bath. 
  • Take things one step at a time. For example, focus on what you need to do today, and try not to worry about what might happen tomorrow. 
  • Focus on positive thoughts. For example, try thinking about your baby in a calm, loving and positive way. 
  • Ask for help if you need it. You can talk to your partner, a family member or a trusted friend. You can also talk to your doctor or midwife or call Miracle Babies Foundation’s NurtureLine on 1300 522 243. 

Useful Links 

Raising Children 

COPE – Centre of perinatal excellence 

Baby Bunting

Need support? NurtureConnect allows you to connect with our NurtureProgram support team, or call our 24 hour NurtureLine 1300 622 243 or join our Facebook community.


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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances. To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].