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BMC Pediatr. 2017 Jul 6;17(1):154. doi: 10.1186/s12887-017-0906-9.

Effectiveness of skin-to-skin contact versus care-as-usual in mothers and their full-term infants: study protocol for a parallel-group randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Developmental Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, P.O. Box 9140, 6500 HE, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Department of Developmental Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, P.O. Box 9140, 6500 HE, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



Twenty-to-forty percent of women experience postpartum depressive symptoms, which can affect both the mother and infant. In preterm infants, daily skin-to-skin contact (SSC) between the mother and her infant has been shown to decrease maternal postpartum depressive symptoms. In full-term infants, only two studies investigated SSC effects on maternal depressive symptoms and found similar results. Research in preterm infants also showed that SSC improves other mental and physical health outcomes of the mother and the infant, and improves the quality of mother-infant relationship. This randomized controlled trial will investigate the effects of a SSC intervention on maternal postpartum depressive symptoms and additional outcomes in mothers and their full-term infants. Moreover, two potential underlying mechanisms for the relation between SSC and the maternal and infant outcomes will be examined, namely maternal oxytocin concentrations and infant intestinal microbiota.


Design: A parallel-group randomized controlled trial.


116 mothers and their full-term infants.


Mothers in the SSC condition will be requested to provide daily at least one continuous hour of SSC to their infant. The intervention starts immediately after birth and lasts for 5 weeks. Mothers in the control condition will not be requested to provide SSC. Maternal and infant outcomes will be measured at 2 weeks, 5 weeks, 12 weeks and 1 year after birth.


maternal postpartum depressive symptoms. Secondary maternal outcomes: mental health (anxiety, stress, traumatic stress following child birth, sleep quality), physical health (physical recovery from the delivery, health, breastfeeding, physiological stress), mother-infant relationship (mother-infant bond, quality of maternal caregiving behavior). Secondary infant outcomes: behavior (fussing and crying, sleep quality), physical health (growth and health, physiological stress), general development (regulation capacities, social-emotional capacities, language, cognitive and motor capacities). Secondary underlying mechanisms: maternal oxytocin concentrations, infant intestinal microbiota.


As a simple and cost-effective intervention, SSC may benefit both the mother and her full-term infant in the short-and long-term. Additionally, if SSC is shown to be effective in low-risk mother-infant dyads, then thought could be given to developing programs in high-risk samples and using SSC in a preventive manner.


NTR5697 ; Registered on March 13, 2016.


Full-term infants; Infant behavior; Mental health; Mother-infant relationship; Physical health; Postpartum depressive symptoms; Randomized controlled trial; Skin-to-skin contact

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