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Worldwide prevalence of mother-infant skin-to-skin contact after vaginal birth: a systematic review

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Background Despite the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation for immediate skin-toskin contact (SSC) after birth, separation of mothers and infants seems to be common practice in many hospitals. It is unknown how common the practice of SSC is worldwide. Therefore, we aimed to determine the reported prevalence of SSC for healthy mothers and infants immediately after normal birth. Methods We systematically searched CINAHL, Medline, ProQuest Central, PubMed and the Cochrane Library for articles published between January 2007 and October 2017 using the keywords "kangaroo care" or "skin to skin contact" or "breastfeeding initiation" or "breast crawl" or "maternal infant contact" or "maternal newborn contact" or "baby friendly hospital initiative" or "ten steps for successful breastfeeding". Results After an initial screening of 5266 records, 84 full text articles were assessed for eligibility, and 35 of these met the inclusion criteria. The studies were from 28 countries representing all six WHO world regions. There was a wide range in the practice of SSC for mother-infant dyads around the world: From 1% to 98%. Only 15 studies clearly defined SSC. Most of the studies were from high-income countries, and these reported higher rates of SSC than studies from low and middle-income countries. Conclusion There was a great heterogeneity in the definition of SSC as well as study designs, which makes cross-county comparison difficult. National studies reporting SSC rates are lacking. Future studies and guidelines to enhance SSC practice should include a standardised set of indicators and measurement tools that document SSC starting time and duration of SSC.


We would like to thank Mr. Ahmad Abdulmaty and Dr. Fatmah Alsolmi for their assistance in translation articles with Finnish and French languages. We acknowledge Umm Al-Qura University for their valuable sponsorship and support.


Publication Date



PLoS One





Article Number





Public Library of Science (PLoS)



Rights Statement

© 2018 Abdulghani et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.