Challenging Experiences of the Fathers of the Premature Infants Admitted in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)


1 Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran

2 Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

3 , Nursing and Midwifery Care Research Center, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran


Background: Birth of premature infants and their admission in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are unexpected crises for the fathers. Therefore, raising the awareness of fathers regarding their experiences in such conditions could be helpful in the care of these neonates. The present study aimed to investigate the experiences of the fathers of the premature infants admitted in the NICU.
Methods: This descriptive, explorative, qualitative study was conducted via purposive sampling, and 13 parents of the premature infants admitted in the NICUs of two hospitals in Isfahan, Iran, were enrolled. Semi-structural interviews were performed with the fathers of premature infants, and thematic analysis was used for data analysis.
Results: Three main themes emerged in the study, including ‘emotions and responsibilities’, ‘information needs’, and ‘beliefs’. In terms of the emotions and responsibilities, fear and accountability were considered to be the major concerns among the fathers. With regard to information needs and beliefs, the need to obtain appropriate information and having faith in God and the infallible Imams were expressed by the fathers, respectively.
Conclusion: Experiencing preterm birth and NICU admission are accompanied by stress and anxiety for the parents of the infants. Meanwhile, several factors could impair the ability of the fathers to cope with the crisis. Identifying and addressing the needs of the parents and providing the necessary training since the beginning of pregnancy could result in the effective management of NICU admission. In addition, proper facilities should be offered to support the fathers of preterm infants, such as parental leave.


1. Mianaei SJ, Karahroudy FA, Rassouli M, Tafreshi MZ. The effect of creating opportunities for parent empowerment program on maternal stress, anxiety, and participation in NICU wards in Iran. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2014; 19(1):94-100.
2. Obeidat HM, Bond EA, Callister LC. The parental experience of having an infant in the newborn intensive care unit. J Perinat Educ. 2009; 18(3):23-9.
 3. Sloan K, Rowe J, Jones L. Stress and coping in fathers following the birth of a preterm infant. J Neonat Nurs. 2008; 14(4):108-15.
4. Russell G, Sawyer A, Rabe H, Abbott J, Gyte G, Duley L, et al. Parents’ views on care of their very premature babies in neonatal intensive care units: a qualitative study. BMC Pediatr. 2014; 14(1):230.
5. Soares RL, Christoffel MM, da Rodrigues E, Machado ME, Cunha AL. Ser pai de recémnascido prematuro na unidade de terapia intensiva neonatal: da parentalidade a paternidade. Escola Anna Nery Rev Enferm. 2015; 19(3):409-16.
 6. Shahkolahi Z, Abdeyazdan Z, Mehrabi T, Hajiheidari M. Supporting fathers of premature infants hospitalized in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). J Crit Care Nurs. 2014; 7(1):31-40.
 7. Abdeyazdan Z, Shahkolahi Z, Mehrabi T, Hajiheidari M. A family support intervention to reduce stress among parents of preterm infants in neonatal intensive care unit. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2014; 19(4):349-53.
8. Provenzi L, Santoro E. The lived experience of fathers of preterm infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: a systematic review of qualitative studies. J Clin Nurs. 2015; 24(13-14):1784-94.
 9. Polit DF, Beck CT. Nursing research: generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.
10. Braun V, Clarke V. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitat Res Psychol. 2006; 3(2):77-101.
 11. Guba EG. Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. ECTJ. 1981; 29(2):75-91.
12. Elo S, Kääriäinen M, Kanste O, Pölkki T, Utriainen K, Kyngäs H. Qualitative content analysis: A focus on trustworthiness. Sage Open. 2014; 4(1):2158244014522633.
 13. Heidari H, Hasanpour M, Fooladi M. The Iranian parents of premature infants in NICU experience stigma of shame. Med Arh. 2012; 66(1):35-40.
 14. Cinar N, Kuguoglu S, Sahin S, Altinkaynak S. The experience of fathers having premature infants in neonatal intensive care unit. Open J Pediatr Neonatal Care. 2017; 2(1):1-12.
 15. St John W, Cameron C, McVeigh C. Meeting the challenge of new fatherhood during the early weeks. J Obstet Gynecol Neonat Nurs. 2005; 34(2):180-9.
16. Hollywood M, Hollywood E. The lived experiences of fathers of a premature baby on a neonatal intensive care unit. J Neonat Nurs. 2011; 17(1):32-40.
 17. Wigert H, Berg M, Hellström AL. Parental presence when their child is in neonatal intensive care. Scand J Caring Sci. 2010; 24(1):139-46.
18. Lindberg B, Axelsson K, Öhrling K. The birth of premature infants: experiences from the fathers’ perspective. J Neonat Nurs. 2007; 13(4):142-9.
 19. Zargham-Boroujeni A, Mahdavi-Lenji Z, Hasanpour M, Sadeghnia A. Discovering the barriers to spread the usage of peripherally inserted central venous catheters in the neonatal intensive care units: a qualitative research. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2013; 18(4):259.
20. Hynan MT. Supporting fathers during stressful times in the nursery: an evidence-based review. Newborn Infant Nurs Rev. 2005; 5(2):87-92.
 21. Feeley N, Waitzer E, Sherrard K, Boisvert L, Zelkowitz P. Fathers’ perceptions of the barriers and facilitators to their involvement with their newborn hospitalised in the neonatal intensive care unit. J Clin Nurs. 2013; 22(3-4):521-30.
22. Værland IE, Vevatne K, Brinchmann BS. Fathers’ experience of starting family life with an infant born prematurely due to mothers’ severe illness. Sex Reprod Healthc. 2017; 13:8-13.
 23. Ekas NV, Whitman TL, Shivers C. Religiosity, spirituality, and socioemotional functioning in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2009; 39(5):706-19.
24. Rosenbaum JL, Smith JR, Zollfrank R. Neonatal end-of-life spiritual support care. J Perinat Neonat Nurs. 2011; 25(1):61-9.
25. Brelsford GM, Doheny KK. Religious and spiritual journeys: brief reflections from mothers and fathers in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Pastoral Psychol. 2016; 65(1):79-87.
 26. Heidari H, Hasanpour M, Fooladi M. Stress management among parents of neonates hospitalized in NICU: a qualitative study. J Caring Sci. 2017; 6(1):29-38.