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JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Effects of psychosocial support during labour and childbirth on breastfeeding, medical interventions, and mothers' wellbeing in a Mexican public hospital: a randomised clinical trial

A Langer, L Campero, C Garcia, S Reynoso
British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 1998, 105 (10): 1056-63
9800927

OBJECT: To evaluate the effects of psychosocial support during labour, delivery and the immediate postpartum period provided by a female companion (doula).

DESIGN: The effects of the intervention were assessed by means of a randomised clinical trial. Social support by a doula was provided to women in the intervention group, while women in the control arm received routine care.

SETTING: A large social security hospital in Mexico City.

PARTICIPANTS: Seven hundred and twenty-four women with a single fetus, no previous vaginal delivery, < 6 cm of cervical dilatation, and no indications for an elective caesarean section were randomly assigned to be accompanied by a doula, or to receive routine care.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Breastfeeding practices, duration of labour, medical interventions, mother's emotional conditions, and newborn's health.

METHODS: Blinded interviewers obtained data from the clinical records, during encounters with women in the immediate postpartum period, and at their homes 40 days after birth. Relative risks and confidence intervals were estimated for all relevant outcomes.

RESULTS: The frequency of exclusive breastfeeding one month after birth was significantly higher in the intervention group (RR 1.64; I-C: 1.01-2.64), as were the behaviours that promote breastfeeding. However, the programme did not achieve a significant effect on full breastfeeding. More women in the intervention group perceived a high degree of control over the delivery experience, and the duration of labour was shorter than in the control group (4.56 hours vs 5.58 hours; RR 1.07 CI (95%) = 1.52 to -0.51). There were no effects either on medical interventions, mothers' anxiety, self-esteem, perception of pain and satisfaction, or in newborns' conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Psychosocial support by doulas had a positive effect on breastfeeding and duration of labour. It had a more limited impact on medical interventions, perhaps because of the strict routine in hospital procedures, the cultural background of the women, the short duration of the intervention, and the profile of the doulas. It is important to include psychosocial support as a component of breastfeeding promotion strategies.

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