Use and Evaluation of Postpartum Care Services in Rural Malawi

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2017 Jan;49(1):87-95. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12257. Epub 2016 Oct 25.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine women's evaluation of postpartum care services (postpartum clinical assessments, health education, and midwife kindness) received from midwives prior to discharge in rural health facilities, and to examine husband-and-wife-farmer dyads' reasons for their decisions to return or not return for 1-week postpartum care visits in rural central Malawi.

Design: Cross-sectional matched-pairs survey design.

Methods: Participants included a convenience sample of 70 husband-and-wife-farmer dyads living in rural communities who had a live birth in the past year at one of four health facilities in Ntcheu district, central Malawi. Data were collected using an interviewer-administered postpartum care questionnaire from the World Health Organization (WHO) Safe Motherhood Needs Assessment Questionnaires. Data analysis included univariate and multivariate statistics.

Findings: Women's evaluation of postpartum care assessments received from midwives in rural health facilities prior to discharge included partial assessments of blood pressure (44%), temperature (41%), abdominal examination (50%), vaginal examination/bleeding (46%), breast examination/soreness (34%), and baby examination (77%). Only 16% of the women received all six of these postpartum clinical assessments prior to discharge, while 11% received none. Women also reported that midwives did not: introduce themselves (50%); ask if patients had questions (44%); explain what they were doing (43%); or explain what to expect after delivery (50%). Despite this, 77% of women felt midwives paid close attention to them and 83% gave an overall positive evaluation (3.5-5 on a scale of 1-5). Numbers of postpartum clinical assessments (p = .09) and overall evaluation (p = .71) did not differ between the four health facilities. The top three reasons for husbands' and wives' decisions to return for 1-week postpartum care visits were: being advised to return for care, wanted the mother to be examined, and wanted the baby to be examined. Participants stated prior negative experiences, or not perceiving a need for care (feels fine), may potentially prevent them from returning for postpartum care visits in a health facility.

Conclusions: Most women reported they received only partial postpartum clinical assessments; thus, it is important for health facilities to address the adequacy of postpartum clinical assessments provided to women by midwives before discharge. Women returned for 1-week postpartum care visits because they were advised to return for care, and also to make sure their babies were examined. However, the principal reason why husbands permitted their wives to return for postpartum care was because they wanted their wives to be examined.

Clinical relevance: Midwives need to advise all patients to return for postpartum care visits consistent with WHO or country guidelines, and continue to educate husbands and wives regarding the importance of postpartum care even when the wife feels fine. Refresher in-service trainings on postpartum care are recommended for midwives to encourage them to perform the recommended postpartum clinical assessments.

Keywords: Adequacy of care; Malawi; decision to return for care; postpartum care; postpartum clinical assessments; postpartum evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Midwives / psychology*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Postnatal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult