Looking after yourself

During this experience, all of your energy can go into worrying and caring for your new baby, but it is important to remember to take good care of yourself too. You need to be physically and emotionally able to care for your baby. Try to:

  • Eat and drink regular, healthy meals – try not to rely on takeaway.
  • Accept the help of family and friends.
  • Exercise (when medically approved) to alleviate stress.
  • Keep a journal of your NICU journey and write down daily events, thoughts and feelings.
  • Join a support group. Most hospitals have them and it’s a great way to meet others who are experiencing a similar journey.
  • Meet with a NICU social worker, counsellor or your spiritual advisor. You may find developing a self-care plan helpful.

Experiencing the birth of a premature or sick newborn can increase your risk of depression and anxiety. Recent studies have found that having a critically ill baby endure a long stay in a NICU may lead to parents developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

If at any time you feel overwhelmed or feel you are not coping well, it is important to seek help. You can:

  • Tell someone how you are feeling, e.g. a counsellor, partner or friend.
  • Ask them to stay with you until you get help. Being with someone, even over the phone, increases your safety.
  • Contact a medical professional and tell them it is an emergency:
    • Call your local hospital and ask to speak to the Mental Health Team.
    • Go to your GP or hospital emergency department and wait there until you see a doctor.
    • Call 000. The police or ambulance may be able to take you to hospital.
    • Call a crisis Helpline – see section 11 or the front of the White Pages.
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