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A narrative review of interventions addressing the parental-fetal relationship

Xuereb, Rita; Borg Cunen, Nicole; Jomeen, Julie; Borg Xuereb, Rita; Poat, Angela


Rita Xuereb

Nicole Borg Cunen

Julie Jomeen

Rita Borg Xuereb

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Dr Angela Poat
Lecturer/ Programme leader/ Module leader/ Academic Support Tutor


Background Expectant parents develop varying degrees of emotional affiliation with the unborn child. Interventions supporting this relationship may be beneficial given its link to maternal health behaviour during pregnancy, as well as the parental–infant bond after birth. Aim To identify and describe the effects of programmes and strategies that have addressed the parental–fetal relationship. Method English-language primary studies, published between 2005–2015, were identified and their methodological quality was assessed. Databases used included CINAHL, Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Web of Science. Key search terms included maternal/paternal–fetal attachment, prenatal bond, parental–fetal relationship and intervention. RCTs, non-RCTs, observational and non-comparative studies, before and after studies and case studies were included. Findings Twenty-seven papers were included. Studies evaluated the effects of various strategies, including ultrasound and screening procedures, fetal awareness interventions, social and psychological support techniques, educational programmes and relaxation strategies. Results are inconsistent due to the diversity of interventions and significant variation in methodological quality. Conclusion There is insufficient evidence to support definitive conclusions regarding the efficacy of any included intervention. A number of limitations, such as non-probability sampling, lack of blinding, and insufficient follow-up weaken the evidence. The inclusion of fathers in only three studies reflects the overall neglect of men in research regarding the prenatal relationship. Further in-depth study of the nature of the maternal/paternal–fetal relationship may be needed in order to allow for the identification of interventions that are consistently beneficial and worthwhile.


Xuereb, R., Borg Cunen, N., Jomeen, J., Borg Xuereb, R., & Poat, A. (2017). A narrative review of interventions addressing the parental-fetal relationship. Women and Birth, 30(4), e141-e151.

Acceptance Date Nov 9, 2016
Online Publication Date Nov 21, 2017
Publication Date Aug 1, 2017
Deposit Date Dec 8, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 12, 2017
Journal Women and birth
Print ISSN 1871-5192
Electronic ISSN 1878-1799
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 4
Pages e141-e151
Keywords Maternal–fetal relations, Paternal–fetal attachment, Psychological bonding, Review, Interventions
Public URL
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Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: A narrative review of interventions addressing the parental–fetal relationship; Journal Title: Women and Birth; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2016 Australian College of Midwives. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contract Date Dec 12, 2017


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