A substantive amendment to this systematic review was last made on 17 May 1999. Cochrane reviews are regularly checked and updated if necessary.


Background: Social support may include advice or information, tangible assistance, and emotional support.

Objectives: The objective of this review was to assess the effects of continuous support during labour (provided by health care workers or lay people) on mothers and babies.

Search strategy: I searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register. Date of last search: April 1999.

Selection criteria: Randomised trials comparing continuous support during labour with usual care.

Data collection and analysis: Trial quality was assessed. Study authors were contacted for additional information.

Main results: Fourteen trials, involving more than 5000 women, are included in the Review. The continuous presence of a support person reduced the likelihood of medication for pain relief, operative vaginal delivery, Caesarean delivery, and a 5-minute Apgar score less than 7. Continuous support was also associated with a slight reduction in the length of labour. Six trials evaluated the effects of support on mothers' views of their childbirth experiences; while the trials used different measures (overall satisfaction, failure to cope well during labour, finding labour to be worse than expected, and level of personal control during childbirth), in each trial the results favoured the group who had received continuous support.

Reviewers' conclusions: Continuous support during labour from caregivers (nurses, midwives, or lay people) appears to have a number of benefits for mothers and their babies and there do not appear to be any harmful effects.

Citation: Hodnett ED. Caregiver support for women during childbirth (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2000. Oxford: Update Software.