Emergency department use during the postpartum period: implications for current management of the puerperium

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Jul;203(1):38.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2010.02.033. Epub 2010 Apr 24.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to define patterns of morbidity that are experienced by women in the postpartum period who seek care in the emergency department within 42 and 100 days of discharge.

Study design: We conducted a retrospective examination of discharge diagnosis codes and descriptions for emergency department visits and analyzed temporal patterns of both emergency department visits and hospital readmissions.

Results: During 2007, 222,084 patients delivered in Hospital Corporation of America facilities in the United States. Among these women, there were 10,751 emergency department visits within 42 days of delivery (4.8%). Fifty-eight percent of the patients were seen for conditions that were related to pregnancy; 42% of the patients were seen for conditions unrelated to pregnancy. Fifty percent of patients in the postpartum period who were seen either in the emergency department (21,833 patients) or readmitted (5190 patients) during both 2007 and 2008 had this encounter within 10 days of discharge.

Conclusion: The scheduling and content of traditional postpartum education and clinical visits appear poorly suited to the prevention of puerperal morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies