top of page

NICU Awareness Month

September is the month of many important things. It’s the start of school, the beginning of pumpkin spice everything, and for some it shines a light on a seldom spoken about topic: the mental effects on parents of children whose lives began in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Around half a million babies end up in the NICU each year, meaning a significant portion of our population knows someone who is or is directly affected by the unique challenges of being a NICU family.

NICU parents (yes that includes you dads!) are at an increased risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD for anywhere from a few months to several years. In addition, postpartum mood disorders don’t always present in the immediate days, weeks, or even months after a NICU baby is born and comes home. Only 15% of mom’s with Postpartum Mood Disorders are diagnosed and receive proper treatment. In a 2015 study out of Duke University, it was found that out of 113 new mothers with babies in the NICU, 42% had depressive symptoms and 30% presented with symptoms of PTSD.

NICU awareness month gives us a good opportunity to help better identify postpartum mood disorders and get someone (or yourself) the help that they need. If you or someone you love is a new parent of a NICU baby, be on the look out for:

  • vivid flashbacks

  • intrusive thoughts

  • nightmares

  • feeling anxious, worried, or “keyed up”

  • feeling emotionally numb

  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm

  • hopelessness and helplessness

  • sad mood and excessive tearfulness

  • isolation

  • “rage”, anger outbursts, or short temper/irritability

  • hallucinations and/or paranoia

How can you get help?

  • If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts or showing suicidal behaviors, call 911.

  • Speak to your OBGYN or PCP about how you are feeling.

  • Find a Therapist!

  • Reach out to your local county crisis line to gather local resources.

  • Find support online or in person. Postpartum Support International is a non-profit organization that can assist individuals with finding support groups and other resources.

NICU awareness month holds a special place in my heart, as my son is a NICU graduate himself.

He was lucky enough to not be one of the more critical cases and we were fortunate to have knowledge about the mental health resources available to us. However, this isn’t the reality for many parents and families. It is important that we recognize how postpartum mood disorders affect our communities and our children and we should be prepared to support our NICU parents by getting them the help that they need. But most importantly, we need to start the conversation and keep it going.

*** The content provided within this blog post is not a substitute for therapy. It is intended for educational and entertainment purposes. If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health emergency contact 911 or the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You may also visit the nearest Emergency Room.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders/(5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013

Innovation District. (2018, May 23). When depression lingers after the ICU.

MacMillan, A. (2018, March 16). The stress of having a baby. Seleni.

Tahirkheli, N. N., Cherry, A. S., Tackett, A. P., McCaffree, M. A., & Gillaspy, S. R. (2014). Postpartum depression on the neonatal intensive care unit: current perspectives. /International journal of women’s health/, /6/, 975–987.

82 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Abe S Perez
Abe S Perez
Sep 07, 2021

Great post!

When our oldest was born she was born GBS (Group B streptococcus) positive which resulted with difficulty breathing and fever and was in the NICU for a week. While this was more than 7 years ago and it was mostly a blur due to barely sleeping, I can vividly remember the amount of worry my wife and I experienced. Luckily I was familiar with the hospital as I worked there, but being in the NICU, sleeping in the NICU, and trying to feed her while she was there was scary. I never really talked about it with my wife as she's not one to talk much, but I could tell she was having a rough time as we…

Meena Statz
Meena Statz
Sep 07, 2021
Replying to

Thanks for sharing, Samir! It's so hard to see your baby struggling. It's such a scary environment and I am so glad she never had to return! Hope you have been well, miss you!

bottom of page