Current research into severe perineal trauma (3rd and 4th degree) focuses upon identification of risk factors, preventative practices and methods of repair, with little focus on women’s experiences of, and interactions with, health professionals following severe perineal trauma (SPT). The aim of this study is to describe current health services provided to women in New South Wales (NSW) who have experienced SPT from the perspective of Clinical Midwifery Consultants (CMC) and women.
This study used a descriptive qualitative design and reports on the findings of a component of a larger mixed methods study. Data were collected through a semi-structured discussion group using a variety of non-directive, open-ended questions leading CMCs of NSW. A survey was distributed prior to the discussion group to collect further information and enable a more comprehensive understanding of services provided. Data from individual interviews with twelve women who had experienced SPT during vaginal birth is used to provide greater insight into their interactions with, and ease of access to, health service providers in NSW. An integrative approach was undertaken in reporting the findings which involved comparing and analysing findings from the three sets of data.
One overarching theme was identified: A Patchwork of Policy and Process which identified that current health services operate in a ‘patchwork’ manner when caring for women who sustain SPT. They are characterised by lack of consistency in practice and standardisation of care. Within the overarching theme, four subthemes were identified: Falling through the gaps; Qualifications, skills and attitudes of health professionals; Caring for women who have sustained SPT; and Gold standard care: how would it look?
The findings from this study suggest that current health services in NSW represent a ‘patchwork’ of service provision for women who have sustained SPT. It appeared that women seek compassionate and supportive care based upon a clear exchange of information, and this should be considered when reflecting upon health service design. This study highlights the benefits of establishing multi-disciplinary collaborative specialist clinics to support women who experience SPT and associated morbidities, with the aim of providing comprehensive physiological and psychological support.
Qualitative research; Severe perineal trauma; Health services; Birth
There is worldwide debate surrounding the safety and appropriateness of different birthplaces for well women. One of the primary objectives of the Evaluating Maternity Units prospective cohort study was to compare the clinical outcomes for well women, intending to give birth in either an obstetric-led tertiary hospital or a free-standing midwifery-led primary maternity unit. This paper addresses a secondary aim of the study – to describe and explore the influences on women’s birthplace decision-making in New Zealand, which has a publicly funded, midwifery-led continuity of care maternity system.
This mixed method study utilised data from the six week postpartum survey and focus groups undertaken in the Christchurch area in New Zealand (2010–2012). Christchurch has a tertiary hospital and four primary maternity units. The survey was completed by 82% of the 702 study participants, who were well, pregnant women booked to give birth in one of these places. All women received midwifery-led continuity of care, regardless of their intended or actual birthplace.
Almost all the respondents perceived themselves as the main birthplace decision-makers. Accessing a ‘specialist facility’ was the most important factor for the tertiary hospital group. The primary unit group identified several factors, including ‘closeness to home’, ‘ease of access’, the ‘atmosphere’ of the unit and avoidance of ‘unnecessary intervention’ as important. Both groups believed their chosen birthplace was the right and ‘safe’ place for them. The concept of ‘safety’ was integral and based on the participants’ differing perception of safety in childbirth.
Birthplace is a profoundly important aspect of women’s experience of childbirth. This is the first published study reporting New Zealand women’s perspectives on their birthplace decision-making. The groups’ responses expressed different ideologies about childbirth. The tertiary hospital group identified with the ‘medical model’ of birth, and the primary unit group identified with the ‘midwifery model’ of birth. Research evidence affirming the ‘clinical safety’ of primary units addresses only one aspect of the beliefs influencing women’s birthplace decision-making. In order for more women to give birth at a primary unit other aspects of women’s beliefs need addressing, and much wider socio-political change is required.
Decision-making; Place of birth; Primary maternity unit; Tertiary hospital; New Zealand; Birthplace; Childbirth; Safety; Medical model; Midwifery model
In Australia, women who give birth are transitioned from maternity services to child and health services once their baby is born. This horizontal integration of services is known as Transition of Care (ToC). Little is known of the scope and processes of ToC for new mothers and the most effective way to provide continuity of services. The aim of this paper is to explore and describe the ToC between maternity services to CFH services from the perspective of Australian midwives and child and family health (CFH) nurses.
This paper reports findings from phase two of a three phase mixed methods study investigating the feasibility of implementing a national approach to CFH services in Australia (the CHoRUS study). Data were collected through a national survey of midwives (n = 655) and CFH nurses (n = 1098). Issues specifically related to ToC between maternity services and CFH services were examined using descriptive statistics and content analysis of qualitative responses.
Respondents described the ToC between maternity services and CFH services as problematic. Key problems identified included communication between professionals and services and transfer of client information. Issues related to staff shortages, early maternity discharge, limited interface between private and public health systems and tension around role boundaries were also reported. Midwives and CFH nurses emphasised that these issues were more difficult for families with identified social and emotional health concerns. Strategies identified by respondents to improve ToC included improving electronic transfer of information, regular meetings between maternity and CFH services, and establishment of liaison roles.
Significant problems exist around the ToC for all families but particularly for families with identified risks. Improved ToC will require substantial changes in information transfer processes and in the professional relationships which currently exist between maternity and CFH services.
Transition of care; Maternity services; Child health services; Midwives; Child and family health nurses; Communication; Collaboration; Continuity
Literature reports that the psychological impact for women following severe perineal trauma is extensive and complex, however there is a paucity of research reporting on women’s experience and perspective of how they are cared for during this time. The aim of this study was to explore how women experience and make meaning of living with severe perineal trauma.
A qualitative interpretive approach using a feminist perspective guided data collection and analysis. Data were collected through semi-structured face to face interviews with twelve women in Sydney, Australia, who had experienced severe perineal trauma during vaginal birth. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.
Three main themes were identified: The Abandoned Mother describes how women feel vulnerable, exposed and disempowered throughout the labour and birth, suturing, and postpartum period and how these feelings are a direct result of the actions of their health care providers. The Fractured Fairytale explores the disconnect between the expectations and reality of the birth experience and immediate postpartum period for women, and how this reality impacts upon their ability to mother their newborn child and the sexual relationship they have with their partner. A Completely Different Normal discusses the emotional pathway women travel as they work to rediscover and redefine a new sense of self following severe perineal trauma.
How women are cared for during their labour, birth and postnatal period has a direct impact on how they process, understand and rediscover a new sense of self following severe perineal trauma. Women who experience severe perineal trauma and associated postnatal morbidities undergo a transition as their maternal body boundaries shift, and the trauma to their perineum results in an extended physical opening whereby the internal becomes external, and that creates a continual shift between self and other.
Continuity in the context of healthcare refers to the perception of the client that care has been connected and coherent over time. For over a decade professionals providing maternity and child and family health (CFH) services in Australia and internationally have emphasised the importance of continuity of care for women, families and children. However, continuity across maternity and CFH services remains elusive. Continuity is defined and implemented in different ways, resulting in fragmentation of care particularly at points of transition from one service or professional to another.
This paper examines the concept of continuity across the maternity and CFH service continuum from the perspectives of midwifery, CFH nursing, general practitioner (GP) and practice nurse (PN) professional leaders.
Data were collected as part of a three phase mixed methods study investigating the feasibility of implementing a national approach to CFH services in Australia (CHoRUS study). Representatives from the four participating professional groups were consulted via discussion groups, focus groups and e-conversations, which were recorded and transcribed. In total, 132 professionals participated, including 45 midwives, 60 CFH nurses, 15 general practitioners and 12 practice nurses. Transcripts were analysed using a thematic approach.
‘Continuity’ was used and applied differently within and across groups. Aspects of care most valued by professionals included continuity preferably characterised by the development of a relationship with the family (relational continuity) and good communication (informational continuity). When considering managerial continuity we found professionals’ were most concerned with co-ordination of care within their own service, rather than focusing on the co-ordination between services.
These findings add new perspectives to understanding continuity within the maternity and CFH services continuum of care. All health professionals consulted were committed to a smooth journey for families along the continuum. Commitment to collaboration is required if service gaps are to be addressed particularly at the point of transition of care between services which was found to be particularly problematic.
Introduction. Trauma, including suicide, accidental injury, motor traffic accidents, and homicides, accounts for 73% of all maternal deaths (early and late) in NSW annually. Late maternal deaths are underreported and are not as well documented or acknowledged as early deaths. Methods. Linked population datasets from births, hospital admissions, and death registrations were analysed for the period from 1 July 2000 to 31 December 2007. Results. There were 552 901 births and a total of 129 maternal deaths. Of these deaths, 37 were early deaths (early MMR of 6.7/100 000) and 92 occurred late (late MMR of 16.6/100 000). Sixty-seven percent of deceased women had a mental health diagnosis and/or a mental health issue related to substance abuse noted. A notable peak in deaths appeared to occur from 9 to 12 months following birth with the odds ratio of a woman dying of nonmedical causes within 9–12 months of birth being 3.8 (95% CI 1.55–9.01) when compared to dying within the first 3 months following birth. Conclusion. Perinatal services are often constructed to provide short-term support. Long-term identification and support of women at particular risk of maternal death due to suicide and trauma in the first year following birth may help lower the incidence of late maternal deaths.
To determine trends and risk factors for severe perineal trauma between 2000 and 2008.
This was a population-based data study.
New South Wales, Australia.
510 006 women giving birth to a singleton baby during the period 2000–2008.
Main outcome measures
Rates of severe perineal trauma between 2000 and 2008 and associated demographic, fetal, antenatal, labour and delivery events and factors.
There was an increase in the overall rate of severe perineal trauma from 2000 to 2008 from 1.4% to 1.9% (36% increase). Compared with women who were intact or had minor perineal trauma (first-degree tear, vaginal graze/tear), women who were primiparous (adjusted OR (AOR) 1.8 CI (1.65 to 1.95), were born in China or Vietnam (AOR 1.1 CI (1.09 to 1.23), gave birth in a private hospital (AOR 1.1 CI (1.03 to 1.20), had an instrumental birth (AOR 1.8 CI (1.65 to 1.95) and male baby (AOR 1.3 CI (1.27 to 1.34) all had a significantly higher risk of severe perineal trauma. Only giving birth to a male baby, adjusted for birth weight (AOR 1.5 CI (1.44 to 1.58), remained significant, when women with severe perineal trauma were compared with all other women not experiencing severe perineal trauma. This association increased over the study period.
To our knowledge, this is the first time that having a male baby has been found to exert such a strong independent risk for severe perineal trauma and the increasing significance of this in recent years needs further exploration.
There are mixed reports in the literature about obstetric intervention and maternal and neonatal outcomes for migrant women born in resource rich countries. The aim of this study was to compare the risk profile, rates of obstetric intervention and selected maternal and perinatal outcomes for low risk women born in Australia compared to those born overseas.
A population-based descriptive study was undertaken in NSW of all singleton births recorded in the NSW Midwives Data Collection between 2000–2008 (n=691,738). Risk profile, obstetric intervention rates and selected maternal and perinatal outcomes were examined.
Women born in Australia were slightly younger (30 vs 31 years), less likely to be primiparous (41% vs 43%), three times more likely to smoke (18% vs 6%) and more likely to give birth in a private hospital (26% vs 18%) compared to women not born in Australia. Among the seven most common migrant groups to Australia, women born in Lebanon were the youngest, least likely to be primiparous and least likely to give birth in a private hospital. Hypertension was lowest amongst Vietnamese women (3%) and gestational diabetes highest amongst women born in China (14%). The highest caesarean section (31%), instrumental birth rates (16%) and episiotomy rates (32%) were seen in Indian women, along with the highest rates of babies <10th centile (22%) and <3rd centile (8%). Lebanese women had the highest rates of stillbirth (7.2/1000). Similar trends were found in the different migrant groups when only low risk women were included.
The results suggest there are significant differences in risk profiles, obstetric intervention rates and maternal and neonatal outcomes between Australian-born and women born overseas and these differences are seen overall and in low risk populations. The finding that Indian women (the leading migrant group to Australia) have the lowest normal birth rate and high rates of low birth weight babies is concerning, and attention needs to be focused on why there are disparities in outcomes and on effective models of care that might improve outcomes for this population.
Migrant; Immigrant; Induction; Vaginal birth; Obstetric care; Caesarean; Multicultural; Indian; Lebanese
There is increasing recognition of the need to identify risk factors for poor mental health in pregnancy and following birth. In New South Wales, Australia, health policy mandates psychosocial assessment and depression screening for all women at the antenatal booking visit and at six to eight weeks after birth. Few studies have explored in-depth women’s experience of assessment and how disclosures of sensitive information are managed by midwives and nurses. This paper describes women’s experience of psychosocial assessment and depression screening examining the meaning they attribute to assessment and how this influences their response.
This qualitative ethnographic study included 34 women who were observed antenatally in the clinic with 18 midwives and 20 of the same women who were observed during their interaction with 13 child and family health nurses after birth in the home or the clinic environment. An observational tool, 4D&4R, together with field notes was used to record observations and were analysed descriptively using frequencies. Women also participated in face to face interviews. Field note and interview data was analysed thematically and similarities and differences across different time points were identified.
Most participants reported that it was acceptable to them to be asked the psychosocial questions however they felt unprepared for the sensitive nature of the questions asked. Women with a history of trauma or loss were distressed by retelling their experiences. Five key themes emerged. Three themes; ’Unexpected: a bit out of the blue’, ‘Intrusive: very personal questions’ and ‘Uncomfortable: digging over that old ground’, describe the impact that assessment had on women. Women also emphasised that the approach taken by the midwife or nurse during assessment influenced their experience and in some cases what they reported. This is reflected in the themes titled: Approach: ’sensitivity and care’ and ’being watched’.
The findings emphasise the need for health services to better prepare women for this assessment prior to and after birth. It is crucial that health professionals are educationally prepared for this work and receive ongoing training and support in order to always deliver care that is empathetic and sensitive to women who are disclosing personal information.
Psychosocial assessment; Depression screening; Mental health; Women’s health; Postnatal depression; Domestic violence screening; Midwifery; Nursing
Severe perineal trauma occurs in 0.5-10% of vaginal births and can result in significant morbidity including pain, dyspareunia and faecal incontinence. The aim of this study is to determine the risk of recurrence, subsequent mode of birth and morbidity for women who experienced severe perineal trauma during their first birth in New South Wales (NSW) between 2000 – 2008.
All singleton births recorded in the NSW Midwives Data Collection between 2000–2008 (n=510,006) linked to Admitted Patient Data were analysed. Determination of morbidity was based upon readmission to hospital within a 12 month time period following birth for a surgical procedure falling within four categories: 1. Vaginal repair, 2. Fistula repair, 3. Faecal and urinary incontinence repair, and 4. Rectal/anal repair. Women who experienced severe perineal trauma during their first birth were compared to women who did not.
2,784 (1.6%) primiparous women experienced severe perineal trauma during this period. Primiparous women experiencing severe perineal trauma were less likely to have a subsequent birth (56% vs 53%) compared to those not who did not (OR 0.9; CI 0.81-0.99), however there was no difference in the subsequent rate of elective caesarean section (OR 1.2; 0.95-1.54), vaginal birth (including instrumental birth) (OR 1.0; CI 0.81-1.17) or normal vaginal birth (excluding instrumental birth) (OR 1.0; CI 0.85-1.17). Women were no more likely to have a severe perineal tear in the second birth if they experienced this in the first (OR 0.9; CI 0.67-1.34). Women who had a severe perineal tear in their first birth were significantly more likely to have an ‘associated surgical procedure’ within the ≤12 months following birth (vaginal repair following primary repair, rectal/anal repair following primary repair, fistula repair and urinary/faecal incontinence repair) (OR 7.6; CI 6.21-9.22). Women who gave birth in a private hospital compared to a public hospital were more likely to have an ‘associated surgical procedure’ in the 12 months following the birth (OR 1.8; CI 1.54-1.97), regardless of parity, birth type and perineal status.
Primiparous women who experience severe perineal trauma are less likely to have a subsequent baby, more likely to have a related surgical procedure in the 12 months following the birth and no more likely to have an operative birth or another severe perineal tear in a subsequent birth. Women giving birth in a private hospital are more likely to have an associated surgical procedure in the 12 months following birth.
Severe perineal trauma; Subsequent birth; Postpartum morbidities; Risk of recurrence
There is growing recognition internationally of the need to identify women with risk factors for poor perinatal mental health in pregnancy and following birth. In the state of New South Wales, Australia the Supporting Families Early policy provides a framework of assessment and support for women and families and includes routine psychosocial assessment and depression screening. This study investigated the approach taken by Child and Family Health Nurses (CFHNs) following birth to assessment and screening as recommended by state policy. This was a qualitative ethnographic study that included 83 CFHN and 20 women. Observations occurred with thirteen nurses; with 20 women, in the home or the clinic environment. An additional 70 nurses participated in discussion groups. An observational tool (4D&4R) and field notes were used to record observations and analysed descriptively using frequencies. Field notes, interview data and discussion group transcripts were analysed thematically.
This was a qualitative ethnographic study that included 83 CFHN and 20 women. Observations occurred with thirteen nurses; with 20 women, in the home or the clinic environment. An additional 70 nurses participated in discussion groups. An observational tool (4D&4R) and field notes were used to record observations and analysed descriptively using frequencies. Field notes, interview data and discussion group transcripts were analysed thematically.
CFHNs demonstrated a range of approaches to assessment and screening. Psychosocial assessment was conducted in 50% (10 out of the 20) of the interactions observed; however, all the women were screened using the Edinburgh Depression Scale. Four major themes that represent the approach taken to the assessment process were identified: ‘Engagement: getting that first bit right’, ‘Doing some paperwork’, ‘Creating comfort’ and ‘Psychosocial assessment: doing it another way’. Nurses utilised other skills such as observing the women interacting with their baby, taking note of non verbal communication and using intuition to develop a clinical decision.
Overall, nurses’ took a sensitive and caring approach to assessment and screening, however, there were differences in interpretations of the policy recommendations across the two sites. Nurses adopt a flexible, relationship-based approach to the assessment process; however, they experience tension when required to incorporate structured psychosocial assessment processes. To undertake assessment and screening effectively, CFHNs require ongoing support, training and supervision to maintain this sensitive and emotionally challenging work.
Psychosocial assessment; Depression screening; Child and family health nurses; Perinatal mental health; Postnatal depression; Domestic violence screening; Home visiting
In a General Practitioner (GP) setting, preventative medicine is reported as the predominant source of health care for the well-child. However, the role of the GP in well-child health care is not well understood in Australia. The aim of this study was to describe the role of the GP in providing services for well-children and families in Australia.
This was a qualitative descriptive study. Face-to-face interviews were held with 23 GPs to identify their role in the provision of well-child health care. Participants worked in a variety of general practice settings and 21 of the 23 GPs worked in the Greater Western Sydney area.
Five main themes were identified in the analysis: ‘prevention is better than cure’, ‘health promotion: the key messages’, ‘working with families’, ‘working with other health professionals’, and ‘barriers to the delivery of well-child health services’.
Participating GPs had a predominantly preventative focus, but in the main well-child care was opportunistic rather than proactive. The capacity to take a primary preventative approach to the health of children and families by GPs is limited by the increasing demands to manage chronic disease. Serious consideration should be given to developing collaborative models of care where GPs are joined up with services funded by State and Territory governments in Australia, such as the universal maternal child and family health nursing services that have well children and families as their prime focus.
General practitioner; Well-child; Family; Role; Australian
Studies report mixed findings about rates of both exclusive and partial breastfeeding amongst women who are migrants or refugees in high income countries. It is important to understand the beliefs and experiences that impact on migrant and refugee women’s infant feeding decisions in order to appropriately support women to breastfeed in a new country. The aim of this paper is to report the findings of a meta-ethnographic study that explored migrant and refugee women’s experiences and practices related to breastfeeding in a new country.
CINAHL, MEDLINE, PubMed, SCOPUS and the Cochrane Library with Full Text databases were searched for the period January 2000 to May 2012. Out of 2355 papers retrieved 11 met the inclusion criteria. A meta-ethnographic synthesis was undertaken using the analytic strategies and theme synthesis techniques of reciprocal translation and refutational investigation. Quality appraisal was undertaken using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) tool.
Eight qualitative studies and three studies reporting both qualitative and quantitative data were included and one overarching theme emerged: ‘Breastfeeding in a new country: facing contradictions and conflict’. This theme comprised four sub-themes ‘Mother’s milk is best’; ‘Contradictions and conflict in breastfeeding practices’; ‘Producing breast milk requires energy and good health’; and ‘The dominant role of female relatives’. Migrant women who valued, but did not have access to, traditional postpartum practices, were more likely to cease breastfeeding. Women reported a clash between their individual beliefs and practices and the dominant practices in the new country, and also a tension with family members either in the country of origin or in the new country.
Migrant women experience tensions in their breastfeeding experience and require support from professionals who can sensitively address their individual needs. Strategies to engage grandmothers in educational opportunities may offer a novel approach to breastfeeding support.
Meta-ethnography; Breastfeeding; Migrant; Immigrant; Refugee; Colostrum; Qualitative research
Moxibustion (a type of Chinese medicine which involves burning a herb close to the skin) has been used to correct a breech presentation. Evidence of effectiveness and safety from systematic reviews is encouraging although significant heterogeneity has been found among trials. We assessed the feasibility of conducting a randomised controlled trial of moxibustion plus usual care compared with usual care to promote cephalic version in women with a breech presentation, and examined the views of women and health care providers towards implementing a trial within an Australian context.
The study was undertaken at a public hospital in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Women at 34-36.5 weeks of gestation with a singleton breech presentation (confirmed by ultrasound), were randomised to moxibustion plus usual care or usual care alone. The intervention was administered over 10 days. Clinical outcomes included cephalic presentation at birth, the need for ECV, mode of birth; perinatal morbidity and mortality, and maternal complications. Feasibility outcomes included: recruitment rate, acceptability, compliance and a sample size for a future study. Interviews were conducted with 19 midwives and obstetricians to examine the acceptability of moxibustion, and views on the trial.
Twenty women were randomised to the trial. Fifty one percent of women approached accepted randomisation to the trial. A trend towards an increase in cephalic version at delivery (RR 5.0; 95% CI 0.7-35.5) was found for women receiving moxibustion compared with usual care. There was also a trend towards greater success with version following ECV. Two babies were admitted to the neonatal unit from the moxibustion group. Compliance with the moxibustion protocol was acceptable with no reported side effects. Clinicians expressed the need for research to establish the safety and efficacy of moxibustion, and support for the intervention was given to increase women's choices, and explore opportunities to normalise birth. The sample size for a future trial is estimated to be 381 women.
Our findings should be interpreted with caution as the study was underpowered to detect statistical differences between groups. Acceptance by women and health professionals towards moxibustion suggest further research is warranted.
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12609000985280
breech; moxibustion; randomised controlled trial; feasibility
The Baby Friendly Hospital (Health) Initiative (BFHI) is a global initiative aimed at protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding and is based on the ten steps to successful breastfeeding. Worldwide, over 20,000 health facilities have attained BFHI accreditation but only 77 Australian hospitals (approximately 23%) have received accreditation. Few studies have investigated the factors that facilitate or hinder implementation of BFHI but it is acknowledged this is a major undertaking requiring strategic planning and change management throughout an institution. This paper examines the perceptions of BFHI held by midwives and nurses working in one Area Health Service in NSW, Australia.
The study used an interpretive, qualitative approach. A total of 132 health professionals, working across four maternity units, two neonatal intensive care units and related community services, participated in 10 focus groups. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Three main themes were identified: 'Belief and Commitment'; 'Interpreting BFHI' and 'Climbing a Mountain'. Participants considered the BFHI implementation a high priority; an essential set of practices that would have positive benefits for babies and mothers both locally and globally as well as for health professionals. It was considered achievable but would take commitment and hard work to overcome the numerous challenges including a number of organisational constraints. There were, however, differing interpretations of what was required to attain BFHI accreditation with the potential that misinterpretation could hinder implementation. A model described by Greenhalgh and colleagues on adoption of innovation is drawn on to interpret the findings.
Despite strong support for BFHI, the principles of this global strategy are interpreted differently by health professionals and further education and accurate information is required. It may be that the current processes used to disseminate and implement BFHI need to be reviewed. The findings suggest that there is a contradiction between the broad philosophical stance and best practice approach of this global strategy and the tendency for health professionals to focus on the ten steps as a set of tasks or a checklist to be accomplished. The perceived procedural approach to implementation may be contributing to lower rates of breastfeeding continuation.
Baby Friendly Health Initiative; breastfeeding; midwifery; health services research; dissemination of innovation; translational research
Home visiting programs comprising intensive and sustained visits by professionals (usually nurses) over the first two years of life show promise in promoting child health and family functioning, and ameliorating disadvantage. Australian evidence of the effectiveness of sustained nurse home visiting in early childhood is limited. This paper describes the method and cohort characteristics of the first Australian study of sustained home visiting commencing antenatally and continuing to child-age two years for at-risk mothers in a disadvantaged community (the Miller Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting trial).
Methods and design
Mothers reporting risks for poorer parenting outcomes residing in an area of socioeconomic disadvantage were recruited between February 2003 and March 2005. Mothers randomised to the intervention group received a standardised program of nurse home visiting. Interviews and observations covering child, maternal, family and environmental issues were undertaken with mothers antenatally and at 1, 12 and 24 months postpartum. Standardised tests of child development and maternal-child interaction were undertaken at 18 and 30 months postpartum. Information from hospital and community heath records was also obtained.
A total of 338 women were identified and invited to participate, and 208 were recruited to the study. Rates of active follow-up were 86% at 12 months, 74% at 24 months and 63% at 30 months postpartum. Participation in particular data points ranged from 66% at 1 month to 51% at 24 months postpartum. Rates of active follow-up and data point participation were not significantly different for the intervention or comparison group at any data point. Mothers who presented for antenatal care prior to 20 weeks pregnant, those with household income from full-time employment and those who reported being abused themselves as a child were more likely to be retained in the study. The Miller Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting trial will provide Australian evidence of the effectiveness of sustained nurse home visiting for children at risk of poorer health and developmental outcomes.