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New Study Looks at Nursing Care For Newborns

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Published: 4 Jun 2002

The length of time that new mothers and their babies stay in hospital after delivery, has declined dramatically over the last 20 years from an average of four days to less than two.

The length of time that new mothers and their babies stay in hospital after delivery, has declined dramatically over the last 20 years from an average of four days to less than two. The impact of this short stay on the babies' well being has caused some public controversy. However, researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) show that a key determinant of the newborn's health is not length of stay but nursing care follow-up. The study demonstrated that healthy newborns thrived when they received either in-home or in-clinic post-hospitalization nursing care. The research, co-authored by Anita Gagnon, Geoffrey Dougherty, Vania Jimenez and Nicole Leduc, is published in the June issue of Pediatrics

"We knew from previous research, that providing nursing care is available, healthy infants discharged from the hospital within 36 hours of birth do well. We found that the infants gained weight, were breastfeeding frequently and the mothers were confident," says Dr. Geoffrey Dougherty, epidemiologist at the Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC and principal co-investigator of the study. "The second phase of our research set-out to measure the best way to deliver nursing care. We found that in-home and in-clinic nursing follow-up were equally effective."

Over five hundred pregnant women were included in the study. They were divided into two follow-up groups, those that received a visit in their home from a community nurse and those that went to a clinic. The well being of the infants was compared between the two groups using parameters such as infant weight gain, breastfeeding frequency, and maternal satisfaction. "Our results suggest that either mode of nursing care delivery works for women and children at low-risk of social and health complications," says Gagnon.

The third phase of the study will look at the relative cost-effectiveness between in-home and in-clinic nursing follow-up. Gagnon said that she hoped the results of these studies would encourage the development of appropriate health care services for new mothers and infants.

This study was supported by the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Quèbec.

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