Aim: To elucidate the immediate maternal thermal skin response when placing the neonate on the mothers' chest, skin-to-skin (STS).
Methods: Ugandan mothers with non-asphyxiated newborns after vaginal delivery (n = 39) were studied. Maternal skin and axillary temperatures were measured immediately before STS contact, then every 2 min for 20 min and finally 10 min after removing the neonate. Neonatal axillary/forehead temperatures were measured immediately before STS contact, and twice after initiating STS, followed by a measurement 10 min after the newborn had been removed.
Results: A rapid thermal response was demonstrated in maternal breast skin immediately after STS contact. It rose by 0.5°C (p < 0.0001) on average the first 2 min after STS contact and fell by 0.5°C 10 min after we had removed the neonate (p < 0.0001). Maternal axillary temperature also rose 2 min after initiation of STS (p < 0.0001) but stayed constant 10 min after removal of the newborn from the STS position.
Conclusion: The findings indicate that there is a rapid maternal, thermal response to the positioning of the newborn STS. The tactile contact may elicit a maternal adaptation enhancing the warming of the newborn. Possible mechanisms include maternal autonomic nerve-mediated skin vasodilatation.