‘Doulas’ are trained or experienced lay women who provide social, emotional and practical support to other women during pregnancy and birth. In a qualitative interview study, NPEU researchers Jenny McLeish and Maggie Redshaw have explored the experiences of 19 volunteer doulas and 16 supported mothers at three community doula projects in England.
One paper from the study focuses on volunteer doulas at birth, examining the ways in which their continuous, empowering, woman-focused support sits alongside midwifery. A second paper considers the role of volunteer doulas working with disadvantaged mothers before and after birth. The study found that antenatal and postnatal support from doulas helped the mothers to succeed and flourish by reducing anxiety, unhappiness and stress; increasing self-esteem, self-efficacy, parenting confidence and skills; supporting them to make effective use of maternity services; and enabling them to build social ties in their community.
There is considerable concern about the impact of the death of a baby on parents’ psychological and physical health and the way in which they are cared for at the time of the death and subsequently. The UK Department of Health funded Listening to Parents study focused on this aspect of maternity care.
This latest paper on women whose babies died soon after birth is one of a series of papers using data from Listening to Parents, a population-based study of parents whose baby died as a stillbirth or shortly after birth in 2012-131. Two previous papers focused on the experience of stillbirth for women living in deprived areas2 who have a higher incidence of stillbirth, and parent’s experience of the post-mortem process following stillbirth3.
An NPEU study presented at the Spanish Health Economics conference in June has won the award for Best Oral Presentation. Senior Health Economist Oliver Rivero-Arias presented the paper “Healthcare and Wider Societal Implications of Stillbirth: A Population-Based Cost of Illness Study”, a collaboration involving the NPEU researchers Oliver Rivero-Arias, Helen Campbell and Jenny Kurinczuk. The study, published earlier this year in BJOG, found that the costs of stillbirth are significant, affecting the health service, parents, professionals, and society with the annual UK cost for all stillbirths at £724 million.
The prize fund of £1,300 will be donated to Sands stillbirth & neonatal death charity with whom the team collaborated during the study.
There is evidence of large differences between ethnic groups in the risk of unexplained death in infancy, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Mary Kroll, Maria Quigley, Jenny Kurinczuk, Yangmei Li and Jennifer Hollowell at the NPEU, University of Oxford, and Nirupa Dattani at City, University of London, looked at newly-available data for 4.6 million babies born in England and Wales. They found the lowest risk of unexplained death in infancy in Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, White Non-British and Black African babies; intermediate risk in White British babies; and highest risk in Mixed Black-African-White, Mixed Black-Caribbean-White, and Black Caribbean babies.
The disparity of risk did not seem to be explained by patterns of preterm birth, mother’s age, or socio-economic position, and may reflect cultural differences in infant care.