To examine trajectories of psychological distress in mothers of children born very preterm (VPT, <30 weeks gestation) and full term from 2 to 13 years after the birth, and examine predictors of maternal psychological distress over time within the VPT group.
Mothers of children born VPT (n = 159) and full term (n = 71) completed questionnaires assessing their psychological distress when their child was 2, 7, and 13 years of age. Mixed models were used to examine differences between groups in maternal psychological distress over time. Family social risk, child neonatal medial risk, child sex, multiple pregnancy, and child’s neurodevelopmental impairment in early childhood were examined as potential predictors of maternal psychological distress within the VPT group.
Mothers of children born VPT displayed elevated psychological distress compared with mothers of full-term children, and this difference was consistent over time. Higher family social risk was associated with elevated maternal psychological distress throughout childhood across all time-points. There was evidence that mothers of children at higher neonatal medical risk displayed increasing psychological distress over time.
Mothers of children born VPT show prolonged psychological distress. Mothers from socially disadvantaged background and those whose child has neonatal medical complications may require extensive support to prevent prolonged psychological distress and promote optimal outcomes for children and families.