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Media Opportunity: Survey to assess the unintended consequences and stresses of COVID‑19 restrictions on families with babies in Canadian Neonatal Intensive Care Units
When widespread restrictions were put in place across the country to stem the spread of COVID-19, they carried with them unintended consequences for a particularly vulnerable group of people.
Families with babies in some hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) across Canada faced limitations on who and when they could see their newborns. In many cases, families had to choose one person to be the main support for their baby and could not leave the NICU. For some, that meant mothers faced challenges providing breast milk to their babies, they felt alone and isolated in the specialized NICU wards, many fathers grappled with not being able to spend time with their baby or support their partner, and others had to leave their baby alone in the NICU as they could not return if they left to care for family members or other children at home.
Marsha Campbell-Yeo, a professor at Dalhousie University’s School of Nursing and the director of the MOM-LINC research lab, saw the need for a study that was national in scope after hearing concerns from families in Halifax and discovering there was little to no research looking into how families have coped with new NICU rules. She along with other researchers believe that the experiences of those families in Halifax were likely representative of families across the country who had to adjust to hospital policies aimed at protecting babies and their care providers from being exposed to the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Campbell-Yeo and a team of parents, clinicians and researchers have launched a national survey asking parents how they have been affected by the restrictions and what can be learned from their time in NICUs. The team is collaborating with Fabiana Bacchini, a previous NICU parent and the executive director of the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation, as well as other experts in the field to help reach NICU families. That includes neonatologist Dr. Karel O’Brien from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
The anonymous questionnaire takes roughly 15 minutes and asks about everything from how long a baby was in hospital to how pandemic restrictions affected parents’ ability to be close to their baby.
The survey also includes an open-ended section where families can share their experiences in NICUs, something Dr. Campbell-Yeo says has already yielded comments about heightened stress as well as excellent feedback on ways to improve parents’ experiences going forward.
Dr. Campbell-Yeo, Ms. Bacchini and Dr. O’Brien are available today on World Prematurity Day to discuss this unique project examining the response of NICUs to COVID-19, while also improving our understanding of the potential for considerable unintended consequences in both the mental health of NICU families and the outcomes for their babies.
Survey link: www.tinyurl.com/momlinc-nicu-covid
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Senior Research Reporter
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