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Maternal Hypothermia? An Unexpected Finding Affecting Kangaroo Mother Care

October 28, 2016

Maternal Hypothermia?  An Unexpected Finding Affecting Kangaroo Mother Care

It is widely known that hypothermia is a leading cause of morbidity among newborns and that an effective low-cost solution is maternal warming of the infant through skin to skin contact. But what role does maternal body temperature play? A 2008 study examining community management techniques for [neonatal care in Shivgarh, India](http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADM963.pdf) showed unexpectedly that a significant number of mothers also suffer from hypothermia. Using the [ThermoSpot](http://maternova.net/health-innovations/thermospot-temperature-indicator) temperature indicator, researchers discovered that in almost half (42%) of the cases of newborn hypothermia, mothers were even colder than their infants! This limits mothers' ability to warm their babies using skin-to-skin contact, or (STSC)[http://maternova.net/health-innovations/kangaroo-mother-care-saves-low-birthweight-babies]—an effective, WHO-recognized method for warming low birth weight newborns.

While there are many studies examining neonatal hypothermia, this is the [first study](http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2808%2961483-X/abstract) we've heard about that measured maternal hypothermia in tandem with the infant's hypothermia. The main objective of the Shivgarh study was to discover the best community-based care package for newborns. They found that newborn mortality could be cut in half through simple interventions like warming and breastfeeding. While the Shivgarh study suggests that innovative tools such as ThermoSpot(TM) could be used to monitor both newborn and maternal temperatures, additional research is needed to understand the causes of hypothermia among mothers, as well as the impact of low maternal body temperature on neonatal health and survival. It struck us as a good example of how mother and infant morbidity and mortality are so obviously linked, and an argument for measuring both in large scale studies. Otherwise important data and connections are missed. This is a good example of a serendipitous finding that should result in follow-up studies!

Photo: Nurse Fatoumata Kamissoko helps a mother wrap her baby in the Kangaroo Mother Care position. (Photo Credit: Joshua Roberts / Save the Children)

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