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Religion, Spirituality and Folk Medicine/Superstition in a Neonatal Unit


Beliefs and practices surrounding religion and spirituality (RS) feature in neonatal units, although healthcare professionals and families hold different views on their role in neonatal care. Descriptive study performed at the Neonatology Unit of Santa Lucía University Hospital, Cartagena. Separate forms concerning spirituality, religion and folk medicine were administered to professionals ascribed to the unit (n = 70) and parents (n = 93). 70% of professionals and 60.2% of parents perceive RS as playing a relevant role in neonatal care; however, 45% of professionals prefer that parents do not express their RS beliefs. Actual use of prayer by parents while in the unit was 55.9%, compared to the staff’s estimation of 20.8% (p < 0.001); parents believe that RS affects outcomes indirectly, mediating through caregivers, contrary to the staff perception that parents turn to RS for a direct effect on outcomes (p < 0.001); professionals, unlike parents, found RS to be of little benefit to children (p < 0.001) or in reducing parental anxiety (p < 0.001). Amulets were found alongside 26.6% of children. Up to 40% of parents believe in magic concepts such as evil eye. Many families express RS while a member is hospitalized and, while staff recognize its importance, they often fail to respond correctly. The use of amulets and ritual objects is still common and can express the need for emotional and psychological support. Caregivers need to be aware of the medical, psychological and emotional implications of these practices.

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Spirituality and religion


Neonatal intensive care unit


Pediatric intensive care unit


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Correspondence to Jose María Lloreda-Garcia.

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The author has no conflicts of interest relevant to this article.

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My interests are neonatal intensive care and a holistic approach to families, not only newborns, especially in the field of beliefs.

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Lloreda-Garcia, J.M. Religion, Spirituality and Folk Medicine/Superstition in a Neonatal Unit. J Relig Health 56, 2276–2284 (2017).

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  • Spirituality
  • Religion
  • Evil eye
  • Folk medicine
  • Neonatology