Pediatrician receives grant to study mothers and newborns

March 09, 2006

Hershey, Pa. -- The period following childbirth is a particularly vulnerable one for new mothers and their infants. After hospital discharge, mothers and babies are at high risk for many complications including hospital readmission, breastfeeding difficulty and postpartum depression.

Ian Paul, a pediatrician with Penn State Children's Hospital, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, believes that at-home nursing care may have a positive influence on the health of new mothers and their babies when compared with traditional office-based care. The Health Resources and Services Administration and the Maternal Child Health Bureau recently awarded more than $1 million to Paul and an interdisciplinary research team to study the issue.

The money will support a project called The Nurses for Infants Through Teaching and Assessment after the NurserY, or NITTANY, Initiative. The project team will compare how the lives of mothers and newborns are affected by a single home nurse visit versus clinic-based care. Researchers will look at factors such as hospital readmission, unplanned emergency room visits, breastfeeding duration, maternal satisfaction with postpartum care and the development of postpartum depression.

The team of researchers includes Christopher Hollenbeak, Carol Weisman and Michele Shaffer, Department of Health Evaluation Sciences; Holly Thomas, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Jessica Beiler, Sarah Sturgis and Cheston Berlin, from the Department of Pediatrics. Nurses from the Visiting Nurses Association of Central Pennsylvania will provide the home visits and Linda Pugh, the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, will act as a consultant.

New mothers experience many changes after giving birth. They take on new responsibilities, such as recognizing illness and dealing with interrupted sleep patterns. Many struggle with breastfeeding, a difficulty good support from health-care providers can ease. These factors greatly affect mothers, as well as their newborns. Through the NITTANY Initiative, Paul wants to see how care in their own homes better accommodates mothers and babies when compared to the usual office visit after discharge.

"Our hope is to improve health care for new mothers and to provide a better model of care for babies through the study funded by this federal grant," Paul said. "After comparing the health and social outcomes, I believe we will find that home-nurse visits are more beneficial because they offer significant advantages for new mothers versus outpatient clinic-based care."

The team will compare how new mothers who receive a home visit use health-care services versus those who receive clinic-base care after discharge. Paul hopes to describe a better model of health care for new mothers and babies, as well as to encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding once home. Paul also wants to help prevent postpartum depression during an often stressful and overwhelming period for families with this new model of care. When data for these factors is collected, the cost of both choices of health care for new mothers can be analyzed.

Paul specializes in newborn health outcomes and primary preventative strategies for newborns and families. He earned his degree from Penn State College of Medicine in 1998.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009