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Postnatal parental education for optimizing infant general health and parent-infant relationships

  • Review
  • Intervention

Authors

  • Anita J Gagnon,

    Corresponding author
    1. McGill University/McGill University Health Center, School of Nursing and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    • Anita J Gagnon, School of Nursing and Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, McGill University/McGill University Health Center, 3506 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2A7, Canada. anita.gagnon@mcgill.ca.

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  • Janet Bryanton

    1. University of Prince Edward Island, School of Nursing, Charlottetown, Canada
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Abstract

Background

Many learning needs arise in the early postpartum period and it is important to examine interventions being used to educate new parents about caring for themselves and their newborns during this time.

Objectives

To assess the effects of structured postnatal education delivered by an educator to an individual or group on maternal/paternal and infant outcomes and health services, and whether the effects of structured postnatal education vary by length or type of intervention and by population.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (November 2007), MEDLINE (1950 to September 2007), CINAHL (1982 to September 2007), ERIC (1966 to September 2007), HealthSTAR (1966 to September 2007), PsycINFO (1806 to September 2007), Sociological Abstracts (1974 to September 2007), ClinicalTrials.gov (August 2007), Current Controlled Trials (August 2007), Trialscentral.org (August 2007) and The National Research Register (August 2007).

Selection criteria

We included randomized controlled trials of any structured postnatal education provided by an educator to individual parents or groups of parents within the first two months post birth related to the care of an infant or of the family. We excluded studies of educational interventions for parents of infants in neonatal intensive care units.

Data collection and analysis

Both authors assessed trial quality and extracted data from published reports.

Main results

We included 14 trials (2934 women) and excluded 24. Of the 14 included studies, education tested included: four on infant sleep enhancement, four on infant behaviour, two on general post-birth health, three on infant safety, and one on father involvement/skills with infants. Details of the randomization procedures, allocation concealment, blinding of outcome assessors, and/or participant accrual/loss were often not reported. Of the outcomes analyzed, only five were measured similarly enough by more than one study to be combined in meta-analyses and these included the same two studies. Of these five meta-analyses, only one was found to have a low enough level of heterogeneity to provide an overall estimate of effect; education on sleep enhancement resulted in a mean difference of 29 more minutes of sleep in 24 hours (95% confidence interval 18.53 to 39.73) than usual care.

Authors' conclusions

The benefits of educational programs to participants and their newborn infants remain unclear. Education on sleep enhancement appears to increase infant sleep although more and larger studies are needed to confirm this.

Plain language summary

Postnatal parental education for optimizing infant general health and parent-infant relationships

The benefits of post-birth parental education for family health remain unclear.

Parenting is important in the development of healthy children. New parents have much to learn soon after the birth of an infant and parents do not always have social support or role models to follow. This makes it essential to examine the effectiveness of interventions used by health personnel to educate new parents about caring for themselves and their newborn infants in the best possible way. This review sought to assess educational programs delivered to one or both parents individually or in a group in the first eight weeks after birth. The review identified 14 trials involving 2934 women; the same outcome was measured in two of these 14. Education on sleep enhancement was the only outcome that could be effectively analyzed, and this showed that an educational intervention aimed at sleep enhancement increased the amount of infant sleep by an average of 29 minutes in 24 hours. Further research is required.

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