Background: This study was a randomized controlled trial of primigravidas in Botswana to determine the effectiveness of the presence of a female relative as a labor companion on labor outcomes.
Methods: One hundred and nine primigravidas in uncomplicated spontaneous labor were randomly distributed into a control group who labored without family members present, and an experimental group who had a female relative with them during labor.
Results: Significantly more mothers in the experimental group had a spontaneous vaginal delivery (91% vs 71%), less intrapartum analgesia (53% vs 73%), less oxytocin (13% vs 30%), fewer amniotomies to augment labor (30% vs 54%), fewer vacuum extractions (4% vs 16%), and fewer cesarean sections (6% vs 13%) than in the control group. These differences were all significant at p < 0.05. Epidural analgesia was not used in the hospital at the time of the study. The only analgesics used were intramuscular pethidine or hyoscine N-butylbromide (Buscopan).
Conclusions: The presence in labor of a female relative was shown to be associated with fewer interventions and a higher frequency of normal delivery compared with the outcomes of those without family member support. The presence of a female relative as a labor companion is a low-cost, preventative intervention that is consistent with the traditional cultural practices in Botswana. In the light of this and previous studies, all women giving birth in a hospital should be offered the choice of a female relative as a companion to give support during labor.