Foetal and neonatal medicine

Foetal and neonatal medicine

  • Poor mental health is common amongst parents whose infants are in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). Parents report feelings of guilt and shame, high levels of stress, and are at greater risk of PTSD, anxiety and major depression (113). Very low birth weight and extremely preterm/extremely low birth weight babies are at greater risk of experiencing anxiety and depression as children (114).
  • Diagnoses of foetal abnormalities can lead to an initial period of stress, grief and distress (115).
    • Continuing pregnancy following the diagnosis of an abnormality is associated with increased levels of anxiety in parents (115).
    • Terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons can lead to a complex mix of emotions, including emotional distress, depression, anxiety and shock (116). The course of distress following termination is similar to that of people who experience spontaneous perinatal loss (115).
  • Parents are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or another mental health problem following the birth of a child with a developmental disability; and are also more likely to experience poorer social determinants of health, including reduced income and employment (117).

Local population

The rolling average of preterm births has declined in Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) over the past few months; whereas in North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT), it shows a relatively stable trend which is closer to the national average.

Figure 23: Babies who were born preterm, rate per 1,000, at CUH (left) and NWAFT (right). Data source: National Maternity Dashboard

Note: Preterm births as defined as babies whose gestational length was between 154 and 258 days.

The rate of infant emergency hospital admissions has been significantly higher than the national average in Peterborough since 2017/18, whilst the rate in Cambridgeshire is significantly lower than average (15).

Figure 24: Rate of emergency admissions per 1,000 population aged under 1 year. Note that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on hospital admissions in 2020/21. Data source: Fingertips



15. Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Child and Maternal Health [Internet]. Fingertips. 2023 [cited 2023 Mar 20]. Available from:
113. Roque ATF, Lasiuk GC, Radünz V, Hegadoren K. Scoping Review of the Mental Health of Parents of Infants in the NICU. Vol. 46, JOGNN – Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. 2017.
114. Johnson S, Marlow N. Preterm birth and childhood psychiatric disorders. Pediatr Res. 2011;69(5 PART 2).
115. Statham H, Solomou W, Chitty L. Prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormality: Psychological effects on women in low-risk pregnancies. Bailliere’s Best Practice and Research in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2000;14(4).
116. González-Ramos Z, Zuriguel-Pérez E, Albacar-Riobóo N, Casadó-Marín L. The emotional responses of women when terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons: A scoping review. Vol. 103, Midwifery. 2021.
117. Marquis SM, Mcgrail K, Hayes M. Mental health of parents of children with a developmental disability in British Columbia, Canada. J Epidemiol Community Health (1978). 2019;