Premature birth study to explore how fathers fare in the NICU

Father and baby 

When parents imagine the arrival of their new baby, they picture a cuddly little bundle dressed in pink or blue, being passed around a room of smiling family and friends.

They don't envisage the fluorescent lights, monitors and breathing machines of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Dr Karen Mattock from Western Sydney University says the premature birth of a baby can be unexpected and traumatic, and can lead to long-term challenges for families.

"Approximately 8.5 per cent of births in Australia each year are preterm," says Dr Mattock, from the University's School of Social Sciences and Psychology.

"We know that the trauma associated with the unexpected timing of birth, as well as the nature of the NICU environment, can impact on the confidence of parents and can lead to long-term challenges for families."

"What needs further exploration is the impact of preterm births on fathers."

Current research largely focuses on the roles and experiences of mothers, leaving gaps in our understanding of fathers' experiences. To fill this gap, Dr Mattock is supervising a new Masters project that is investigating the experiences of fathers in the NICU.

Fathers of infants aged 12 months or under, who were born premature (at a gestational age of less than 37 weeks) and had spent time in the NICU, are invited to participate in the online survey.(opens in a new window)

"The survey will ask men to share their story as a father of a premature baby, including their experiences of having skin-to-skin contact with their infants in the NICU," says Dr Mattock.

"Participation in the study will contribute to our understanding of the long-term impacts of premature birth on fathers, and may lead to intervention and support for fathers as well as inform practice policies within the NICU."

The survey, which will take approximately 20 mins to complete, can be accessed at: (opens in a new window)

For further information, contact Dr Karen Mattock on


7 August 2017

Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer