Mothers often think NICU babies are healthier than they are

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 27, 2012

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Women whose children are being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit frequently misunderstand the severity of their infants’ illnesses, even after grading their discussions with physicians and nurses as productive, said a study published online Aug. 16 in the Journal of Perinatology.

Researchers surveyed 101 pairs of mothers and clinicians — either doctors or nurses — after they had conversations about a critically ill infant’s condition. About 90% of mothers and clinicians rated the talks as helpful, but nearly half the mothers disagreed with the health professionals’ take on how sick their infants were, said the study (link).

About two-thirds of the mothers thought the child was less ill than did the corresponding clinicians surveyed. This remained true even for mothers of infants with life-threatening problems such as sepsis and extreme prematurity.

Researchers recommend that physicians and nurses talking with parents of critically ill infants avoid medical jargon, define even the simplest terms, be unequivocal in describing the baby’s condition, treatments and prognosis, and ask parents to summarize what they learned in the conversation.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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