Objective: Basic perinatal education to increase parental knowledge of neonatal illnesses (such as respiratory distress, sepsis, complications of prematurity) could be a feasible way to reduce high neonatal mortality rates in limited-resource nurseries. To assess the efficacy of antenatal education in increasing mothers' knowledge of basic newborn care in a limited-resource nursery, and to determine whether the knowledge is retained postpartum.
Study design: In March to April 2008, we implemented a 10-min educational program on basic neonatal care for women receiving prenatal care in a maternal child hospital in Vientiane, Laos. The educational intervention was a structured, face-to-face interactive module taught by Lao providers using pictographic and written materials about temperature control, umbilical cord care and signs of neonatal illness. We assessed knowledge before and immediately after the module using a standardized interview tool. When possible, we reassessed knowledge postpartum to determine whether they retained information after the training.
Result: We recruited 101 women (average age=26.3 years), and the majority (53%) were primigravidas. Participants were well educated by local standards; 57% of women had >8 years and 28% had >12 years of education. Women's knowledge of neonatal care increased by 10% on immediate posttest (P<0.0001), especially regarding knowledge of umbilical cord care and temperature control (normal temperature ranges, thermometer use). Maternal education (P=0.025) and previous births (P=0.037) correlated positively with higher pretest scores. Higher maternal education correlated with higher posttest scores (P=0.01); however, less-educated women increased their scores as much as did women with more education. Nulliparous women also increased their posttest scores to comparable levels in women with previous deliveries. Women retested after delivery retained the educational message, achieving similar posttest and postdelivery scores (P=0.08).
Conclusion: Brief antenatal education increases mothers' understanding of basic newborn care. Mothers retain this knowledge into the early postpartum period and during early infancy when it might help reduce morbidity and mortality. The education was efficacious for women with little education. Brief antenatal educational modules seem a feasible, sustainable means of improving mothers' knowledge of newborn care. We speculate that similar programs could improve neonatal morbidity and mortality in developing countries.