Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 780–791 | Cite as

Improving Maternal Mental Health Following Preterm Birth Using an Expressive Writing Intervention: A Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Antje HorschEmail author
  • Jean-François Tolsa
  • Leah Gilbert
  • Lauranne Jan du Chêne
  • Carole Müller-Nix
  • Myriam Bickle Graz
Original Article


Evaluations of evidence-based, easily accessible, psychological interventions to improve maternal mental health following very preterm birth are scarce. This study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of the expressive writing paradigm for mothers of very preterm infants. The level of maternal posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms was the primary outcome. Participants were 67 mothers of very preterm babies who were randomly allocated into the intervention (expressive writing; n = 33) or control group (treatment-as-usual; n = 32) when their infant was aged 3 months (corrected age, CA). Measurements were taken at 3 months (pre-intervention), 4 months (post-intervention), and 6 months CA (follow-up). Results showed reduced maternal posttraumatic stress (d = 0.42), depressive symptoms (d = 0.67), and an improved mental health status (d = 1.20) in the intervention group, which were maintained at follow-up. Expressive writing is a brief, cost-effective, and acceptable therapeutic approach that could be offered as part of the NICU care.


Premature NICU Expressive writing Intervention Maternal mental health 



Antje Horsch was supported by the Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne. We would like to thank all mothers who participated and Mehdi Mohammad Gholamrezaee for his statistical advice. Thank you to Karine Perretten, Laetizia von Laer Tschudin, Manon Macherel, Maria Campos, and Anaïs Torregrossa for their assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antje Horsch
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jean-François Tolsa
    • 1
  • Leah Gilbert
    • 1
  • Lauranne Jan du Chêne
    • 1
  • Carole Müller-Nix
    • 3
  • Myriam Bickle Graz
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinic of NeonatologyUniversity Hospital LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsUniversity Hospital LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity Hospital LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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