The Association between NICU Admission and Mental Health Diagnoses among Commercially Insured Postpartum Women in the US, 2010-2018

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Children (Basel)


Maternal mental health (MH) conditions represent a leading cause of preventable maternal death in the US. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) hospitalization influences MH symptoms among postpartum women, but a paucity of research uses national samples to explore this relationship. Using national administrative data, we examined the rates of MH diagnoses of anxiety and/or depression among those with and without an infant admitted to a NICU between 2010 and 2018. Using generalized estimating equation models, we explored the relationship between NICU admission and MH diagnoses of anxiety and/or depression, secondarily examining the association of NICU length of stay and race/ethnicity with MH diagnoses of anxiety and/or depression post NICU admission. Women whose infants became hospitalized in the NICU for19% higher odds of maternal MH diagnoses (aOR: 1.19, 95% CI: 1.14%−1.24%) and those whose infants became hospitalized for >2 weeks had 37% higher odds of maternal MH diagnoses (aOR: 1.37 95% CI: 1.128%−1.47%) compared to those whose infants did not have a NICU hospitalization. In adjusted analyses, compared to white women, all other race/ethnicities had significantly lower odds of receiving a maternal MH condition diagnosis [Black (aOR = 0.76, 0.73−0.08), Hispanic (aOR = 0.69, 0.67−0.72), and Asian (aOR: 0.32, 0.30−0.34)], despite higher rates of NICU hospitalization. These findings suggest a need to target the NICU to improve maternal MH screening, services, and support while acknowledging the influence of social determinants, including race and ethnicity, on health outcomes.

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