The research also highlighted that 35 per cent of parents reported that their mental health was “significantly worse” after their time on the neonatal unit.
The study, conducted by the premature and sick baby charity Bliss, also found that 23 per cent of respondents had been diagnosed with anxiety after their neonatal experience.
Other findings include:
• 16% of parents surveyed were diagnosed with PTSD after their time on the neonatal unit.
• 14% of parents surveyed were diagnosed with postnatal depression after their time on the neonatal unit.
• 39% of parents surveyed felt they had developed a mental health condition after their experience on the unit, although they were not officially diagnosed.
The survey also revealed the lack of support for new parents:
• 62% of respondents reporting they had no access to formal psychological support (such as counselling or talking therapies) when they needed it whilst their baby was on the neonatal unit.
• 8% of parents surveyed felt like they received the right amount of formal psychological support whilst on the neonatal unit.
• 45% of parents said they had no access to formal psychological support when they needed it since leaving the neonatal unit.
National standards for neonatal care across the UK indicate that all parents on neonatal units should have access to psychological and social support, including a trained counsellor.
However, Bliss’ past research shows that no nation in the UK is reaching the national standards for psychological support in neonatal units.
In England, 41% of neonatal units said that parents had no access to a trained mental health worker, and 30% said parents had no psychological support at all.
Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss said: “The shocking findings of our latest research demonstrate the vital need for better mental health support for parents whilst their baby is on the neonatal unit and beyond.
“At present, none of the UK nations are reaching the national standard for providing psychological support to parents on units and our research demonstrates how detrimental this can be to parents’ health and well-being.
“Bliss calls for every UK Government to ensure that mental health support is available to each parent who has a baby in neonatal care.
“Bliss is working hard to ensure parents receive the help they need whilst on the neonatal unit and beyond.
“We are currently producing new information for parents about mental health that will be available later this year.
“In the meantime, we continue to recruit and train volunteers who provide direct support to parents with babies in neonatal units across the country.”