In recent decades the growth in interest home births has raised important questions about whether older children should be present at their sibling's birth, and if so how that should be managed. Practice varies according to culture and geographical location globally.
For her Master of Midwifery thesis, supervised by Suzanne Miller, Nora Li Naber undertook a systematic literature review to gather all that is known about sibling attended birth. Parents weighed up the potential advantages, for example for family unity, and disadvantages, such as possible distraction of the mother. Children experienced a wide variety of emotions but no trauma or severe distress has been reported. Some, especially younger children, were passive observers, coming and going, while others actively supported their mother.
Nora has consolidated findings from 22 relevant studies into a body of knowledge that will inform further research by herself and others. Gaps she identified in the existing research included what is 'age-appropriate' information to give children to prepare them for the experience, what influence support people have on children's experience, and what insights midwives can contribute from their observations of sibling attended births. Nora's goal is for an evidence base that will inform parents' decision-making processes and preparation, and guide midwifery practice with respect to sibling attended births.
Story by Lesley Brooks