Maternal Stress and the White Coat Syndrome: A Case Study.

Arthur J Engler

Document Type Article


Coping with the birth of a preterm infant is a stressful event for mothers for many reasons, including parental role alterations, perception of the infant's illness severity, and uncertainty about the infant's prognosis. Stressors evoke many physiological responses. Fingertip temperature, an electrophysiologic indicator, is a good measure of stress. This case study describes the experience of one mother's negative response to a surgeon's visit to her baby's bedside. Researchers refer to the "white coat" syndrome, in which personnel can significantly affect autonomic function. Increasing our understanding of maternal stress could help ameliorate some of the deleterious effects persistently elevated levels of stress can produce. Further research might focus on the effects of communication with other familiar health care professionals, as well as the influence of Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin, chest-to-chest contact between caregiver and infant) on maternal stress.