Background: Skin-to-skin care has been adopted all over the world, although physiological changes during or after it have not been evaluated very well. The purpose of the present study was therefore to investigate whether skin-to-skin contact for newborn babies and their mothers affects body temperature, heart rate and oxygen saturation of the babies.
Methods: Studies investigating body temperature, heart rate and oxygen saturation of babies during and/or after skin-to-skin contact were systematically searched and reviewed. Meta-analyses to examine the effects and meta-regression analyses to investigate correlations between the effects and birthweight, duration of the care, environmental temperature, and resources of the setting, were conducted.
Results: A total of 23 studies were included. Meta-analyses showed evidence of an increase in body temperature (weighted mean difference [WMD] 0.22 degrees C, P < 0.001) and a decrease in saturation of babies (WMD -0.60%; P= 0.01) during skin-to-skin care, compared with those before skin-to-skin care. Increase in body temperature was more evident in middle-low-income settings (WMD, 0.61 degrees C, P < 0.001) than high-income settings (WMD 0.20 degrees C, P < 0.001). Both the positive effect on body temperature and the negative effect on saturation were more marked in cold environments than where the environmental temperature was higher (WMD 0.18 degrees C, P < 0.001; WMD -0.82%, P= 0.02).
Conclusion: Skin-to-skin care is effective in increasing the body temperature of babies, especially where resources are limited and the environment is cold. Decreased oxygen saturation of the babies, however, warrants further prospective studies to confirm the findings.