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Postpartum Skin-to-Skin Contact Provides Health Benefits to Mothers and Infants

Leading Nursing Journal Evaluates Effect of This Method on Depressive Symptoms

NEWS RELEASE: July 10, 2012
CONTACT: Jessica Gillman, 202-296-2002

Washington, DC— The postpartum period brings physical and mental transitions that may predispose new mothers to depressive symptoms, including mental confusion, despair, sadness, anxiety, fear, compulsive thinking, and feelings of inadequacy. These symptoms are of particular concern because infants of mothers with these symptoms are at risk for developmental and emotional difficulties.

In an article in the May/June issue of the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), published by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), the authors discuss skin-to-skin contact (SSC), in which the infant is placed on the mother’s bare chest, dressed only in a diaper, so that frontal body contact of mother and infant is skin to skin. The authors describe benefits to the mother and newborn.

In “The Effect of Mother/Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact on Postpartum Depressive Symptoms and Maternal Physiological Stress,?? Ann Bigelow, PhD; Michelle Power BSc; Janis MacLellan-Peters, RN, MN; Marion Alex, RN, MN, CMN; and Claudette McDonald BScN, RN examine how SSC positively affects maternal and newborn postnatal life.

Researchers have found that infants who participate in SSC with their mothers have

  • More stable body temperatures, heart rates, and respiratory rates;
  • Healthier gastrointestinal adaptation;
  • Improved sleep habits;
  • Less crying;
  • Better growth;
  • Longer rates of breastfeeding; and
  • Less pain from routine procedures.

Additionally, SSC has been shown to have a positive impact on new mothers’ feelings toward and perceptions of their newborns. These women also experience less depression and more empowerment in their roles as parents.

"Unlike other interventions to reduce depressive symptoms in the postpartum months, SSC is easy to use, readily accessible, cost effective, and without adverse effects," said AWHONN's Chief Executive Officer Karen Peddicord, PhD, RN. "Therefore, women’s health professionals can encourage their patients to practice mother/infant SSC as in intervention strategy to lessen depressive symptoms and anxiety while improving maternal mood." Ultimately, SSC reduces mothers’ physical stress and depressive symptoms, improves infants’ development, and enhances the mother/newborn relationship.

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About JOGNN

The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), is an internationally ranked scientific and technical journal published bimonthly by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. JOGNN is online at jognn.awhonn.org.

About AWHONN

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is the foremost nursing authority that advances the health care of women and newborns through advocacy, research and the creation of high quality, evidence-based standards of care.

AWHONN's 24,000 members worldwide are clinicians, educators and executives who serve as patient care advocates focusing on the needs of women and infants. A leader in professional development, AWHONN holds the distinction of twice receiving the Premier Program award by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for innovation and excellence in Continuing Nursing Education (CNE).

Founded in 1969 as the Nurses Association of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the association became a separate nonprofit organization called the Association of Women's Health and Neonatal Nurses in 1993.

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