Background

In July 2013 the Italian Society of Neonatology (Società Italiana di Neonatologia (SIN)) launched a national survey in Italy on neonatal abandonment in collaboration with ninna ho.

Objectives

The survey aimed at collecting quantitative and qualitative data on the conditions under which babies were not recognized by their parents at birth, and hence to propose a program of prevention to assist mothers in difficulty and to define new methods and tools for preventing child abandonment in conditions at risk for the mother and for the baby.

Methodology

Together the members of the Council of the SIN and ninna ho volunteers drew up a survey comprising 22 questions divided into three specific sections:

  • the first containing indications regarding the hospital where the mother gave birth, the nationality of the mother, her age range, her marital status, her level of formal education and possible information regarding the father (where the information may have been known);
  • the second including questions on the woman’s experience in hospital, the reasons which had compelled her to not recognize her child, the social services which had assisted her during the maternity, her knowledge regarding the laws governing anonymous childbirth in Italy and on the presence of baby hatches;
  • the last section identifying what could be, in the doctors’ opinions, the most effective methods for preventing the abandonment of babies at birth under illegal conditions.

A representative sample of 100 maternity units throughout Italy was chosen and the questionnaire, delivered by email, was filed quarterly by the Head of the maternity department or by their medical assistants, between July 2013 and June 2014.

Summary of results

70 maternity units participated in the survey:

  • 38 in the North of Italy
  • 19 in the central regions of Italy
  • 13 in the South and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia

The overall results for the period in question registered 56 unrecognized babies out of a total sample of 80,060 births.

Therefore the phenomenon of unrecognized babies at birth for the same period amounted to 0.07% of the total number of live births in Italy.

The highest numbers of unrecognized babies born in hospitals were registered in the central regions and the North of Italy, for respectively 26 and 25 cases. In the South of Italy only 5 anonymous births were registered.