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The title may not be entirely correct..

Is there a word or phrase that describes a mother/father who is overly anxious about their baby's health?

Not a word to describe both parents together, a word to describe one parent.

Also, a word that could be used in describing the parent to others as well as directly to them. Something like 'Worrying Wendy, Delirious Dad, Medicine Mad Mummy'. I suppose they must have coined a phrase for this in the medical profession.

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Related almost to the point of being a duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/questions/102719/… –  Andrew Leach Dec 19 '13 at 16:09

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A worrywart \ˈwər-ē-ˌwȯrt\ is a term which may describe a parent who worries excessively about their child's health, a person who tends to worry habitually and often needlessly.

Nervous Nelly, is perhaps the most light-hearted expression I am aware of, which describes a very fearful or nervous person . You could call a mother a "nervous Nelly mom", this doesn't necessarily describes a parent who is hypochondriac by proxy but it could include this behaviour.

many new parents are nervous Nellies when it comes to the health of their babies

And a term which I think strikes the right balance between gentle teasing and description accuracy is over-parenting.
Kidspot parent exchange

OK, so we all have days where we are, like, over it, but over-parenting is another thing entirely. It's when you get too into the detail of your role as a parent that you can't see the wood for the trees.

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Nervous Nelly gets at "light-hearted" better than the other options so far, which are either more earnest or disapproving than "light-hearted" connotes. –  Joan Pederson Jan 6 at 17:22

Given the clarification from the edit, here are a few less severe options:

  • worrisome — tending to worry: having a tendency to worry
  • overprotective
  • tender — with gentle feeling: showing care, gentleness, and feeling
  • with or using "kid gloves"
  • precautious — using or displaying precaution

Here are two relevant terms that have some relation to your intended meaning:

helicopter parent — a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions

Helicopter parents are traditionally seen as overly worrisome or paranoid. This could certainly apply to medical concerns.

I wasn't able to find anything more specific but if you used the phrase "parental hypochondria" I suspect most English speakers would understand your intent.


One potentially relevant footnote is the term Münchausen syndrome by proxy.

Münchausen syndrome by proxy — a behavior pattern in which a caregiver deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care

Münchausen syndrome by proxy is a very complicated mental illness that is somewhat related to your desired term in the sense that the illness is through "proxy"; only instead of Münchausen syndrome you are looking for something like hypochondria.

It is worth noting that you should be careful to never confuse the two. Hypochondria is usually a worry of wellbeing while Münchausen syndrome by proxy is usually an attention seeking behavior.

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It is, however, similar to a hypochondriac in the sense that they are creating or referring to illness that simply isn't there. The point of including the term is to note the phrase "by proxy" which could theoretically be a hint that the condition may have "by proxy" in its name. I find it relevant. I will edit the answer a tad to clarify this a bit; hope that helps. –  MrHen Dec 18 '13 at 0:52
    
@Susan: Right; I understand your point. You are just describing "Münchausen syndrome by proxy" (very well, thank you) but its still one of the few related terms because it has two crossover relations: Illness and proxy. I'm not trying to suggest they are the same thing; I am just bringing it up because it is contextually related. –  MrHen Dec 18 '13 at 1:52
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How about hypochondria-by-proxy? –  jhabbott Dec 18 '13 at 3:11
    
@Susan: You aren't wrong; but feel free to point out anything closer in relation. Your own answer is a synonym for "helicopter parent"; would you have less of a problem if I just moved "Münchausen syndrome by proxy" to a footnote? –  MrHen Dec 18 '13 at 3:23
    
@Susan: No worries. I want my answer to be as helpful as possible; if one of those downvotes was yours I am more than willing to work with you to deal with your objection. –  MrHen Dec 18 '13 at 20:37

"Hypervigilant parent" may be as close as you can come to the term you're looking for.

Granted, hypervigilance is a state of sensory arousal common in patients with PTSD, it is also used to describe parents who are always concerned with potential illness in children, and is thought by some to contribute to hypochondriasis.

One can be an over-attached parent, a fretful parent, or simply anxious parent.

There was a phrase we used to use to describe the anxiety of a parent whose child had a very serious illness, and due to this illness tended to be overly fretful, but this, it would seem, is not the situation you are describing.

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This is a term I'd use if I were to write about it or speak formally in some odd format about it, but too serious for my current purposes. Also, you are correct; the child is fine, his mother is just overly worried about him. –  user Dec 28 '13 at 22:23
    
Then I suggest worrywart. –  medica Dec 28 '13 at 22:26
    
I was leaning towards that answer as well, I've accepted it now. Thanks for contributing. :) –  user Dec 29 '13 at 11:05

Perhaps not the precise term you are seeking but one closely related is to 'mollycoddle', one meaning of which is 'to treat indulgently, or overprotectively'. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

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