The presence of birth partners throughout hospitalisation was the most popular recommendation to improve maternal and newborn health care among 392 mothers in Italy. They were responding to a questionnaire study. 28% of the women recommended this improvement, responding to this particular statement: “Allow more extended presence of a companion of choice during labour and childbirth (e.g., free visiting hours for at least one person during the whole hospitalization).” The next most popular suggestion was improving bathrooms and showers, suggested by 18% of the women surveyed.
“The father should not be treated as the other visitors; they should be allowed to live with us this experience, they should stay with us all the time they want and can.”
“More support from fathers, with more flexible access to the ward could help us to rest; we need it so much, and it is in the interest of the baby.”
The women talked about “fathers” whilst the survey, and the policy/practice documents that it was based on, do not use this word.
The questionnaire was based on WHO’s Standards for Improving Quality of Maternal and Newborn Care in Health Facilities (2016). The quality measure focuses on a companion for childbirth only and does not advocate presence throughout the whole hospitalisation as the Italian women specified.
Standard 6: Every woman and her family or the companion of her choice are given emotional support that is sensitive to their needs and strengthens the woman’s capability.
- The labour and childbirth areas are organized in such a way as to allow a physical private space for the woman and her companion at the time of birth.
- The health facility has a written, up-to-date protocol, which is explained to women and their families, to encourage all women to have at least one person of their choice, as culturally appropriate, with them during labour, childbirth and the immediate postnatal period.
- Health care staff in the health facility are oriented and receive in-service refresher training sessions at least once every 12 months on the evidence for and positive impact of the presence of a chosen companion during labour and birth.
- Orientation sessions and information (written or pictorial) are available to orient the companion on his or her role in supporting the woman during labour and birth.
- The proportion of all women who gave birth in the health facility who had a companion of their choice during labour and childbirth.
- The proportion of all companions who were satisfied with the orientation given on their role during labour and childbirth.
- The proportion of all women who gave birth in the health facility who expressed satisfaction with the health services.
91.6% of the mothers in the survey had an Italian nationality. 58% were highly educated (Bachelor’s degree or specialist degree).
This survey backs up the findings of a 2017 systematic review that concluded, “Most women and some healthcare providers emphasised the importance of family attendance and presence of labour companions of choice [12 studies quoted] and valued it as every woman’s right [5 studies quoted].”
Another systematic review in 2018, concluded: “The findings suggest that, with high or moderate confidence, most women around the world hope for a labour and birth experience that enables them to use their inherent physical and psychosocial capacities to labor and give birth to a healthy baby in a clinically, culturally, and psychologically safe environment with continuity of practical and emotional support from a birth companion(s).”
Lazzerini M, Semenzato C, Kaur J, Covi B & Argentini G (20200, Women’s suggestions on how to improve the quality of maternal and newborn hospital care: A qualitative study in Italy using the WHO standards as framework for the analysis, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 20
Header photo: Sergio Maistrello. Creative Commons.