Open Access Open Badges Research article

1What do first-time mothers worry about? A study of usage patterns and content of calls made to a postpartum support telephone hotline

Hibah Osman1*, Monique Chaaya2, Lama El Zein3, Georges Naassan4 and Livia Wick5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Behavior and Education, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

2 Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

3 Department of Family Medicine, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA

4 Neurologic Institute, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

5 Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:611  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-611

Published: 15 October 2010



Telephone hotlines designed to address common concerns in the early postpartum could be a useful resource for parents. Our aim was to test the feasibility of using a telephone as an intervention in a randomized controlled trial. We also aimed to test to use of algorithms to address parental concerns through a telephone hotline.


Healthy first-time mothers were recruited from postpartum wards of hospitals throughout Lebanon. Participants were given the number of a 24-hour telephone hotline that they could access for the first four months after delivery. Calls were answered by a midwife using algorithms developed by the study team whenever possible. Callers with medical complaints were referred to their physicians. Call patterns and content were recorded and analyzed.


Eighty-four of the 353 women enrolled (24%) used the hotline. Sixty percent of the women who used the service called more than once, and all callers reported they were satisfied with the service. The midwife received an average of three calls per day and most calls occurred during the first four weeks postpartum. Our algorithms were used to answer questions in 62.8% of calls and 18.6% of calls required referral to a physician. Of the questions related to mothers, 66% were about breastfeeding. Sixty percent of questions related to the infant were about routine care and 23% were about excessive crying.


Utilization of a telephone hotline service for postpartum support is highest in the first four weeks postpartum. Most questions are related to breastfeeding, routine newborn care, and management of a fussy infant. It is feasible to test a telephone hotline as an intervention in a randomized controlled trial. Algorithms can be developed to provide standardized answers to the most common questions.