The effect of health and nutrition education intervention on women's postpartum beliefs and practices: a randomized controlled trial

BMC Public Health. 2009 Feb 1;9:45. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-45.


Background: 'Sitting month' is the Chinese tradition for postpartum customs. Available studies indicate that some of the traditional postpartum practices are potentially harmful for women's health. However, no intervention study aiming at postpartum practices has been performed. In this paper we evaluated the effect of a health and nutrition education intervention, which focused on improving postpartum dietary quality and optimal health behaviors.

Methods: The study design was a randomized controlled trial conducted in both urban and rural area of Hubei between August 2003 and June 2004. A total of 302 women who attended the antenatal clinic during the third trimester with an uncomplicated pregnancy were recruited. Women randomized to the education intervention group in both urban and rural area received two two-hour prenatal education sessions and four postpartum counseling visits. Control group women received usual health care during pregnancy and postpartum period. Women were followed up until 42 days postpartum. Outcome measures were nutrition and health knowledge, dietary behavior, health behavior and health problems during the postpartum period.

Results: Women in the intervention groups exhibited significantly greater improvement in overall dietary behaviors such as consumption of fruits, vegetables, soybean and soybean products as well as nutrition and health knowledge than those in the control groups. Significantly more women in the intervention groups give up the traditional behavior taboos. The incidence of constipation, leg cramp or joint pain and prolonged lochia rubra was significantly lower in the intervention groups as compared with the control groups.

Conclusion: The study shows that health and nutrition education intervention enable the women take away some of the unhealthy traditional postpartum practices and decrease the prevalence of postpartum health problems. The intervention has potential for adaptation and development to large-scale implementation.

Trial registration number: klACTRN12607000549426.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • China
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / methods
  • Maternal Welfare / ethnology*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Postnatal Care / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period / ethnology
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Probability
  • Rural Population
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Urban Population