Postnatal care is the aspect of maternity care with which women in England are least satisfied. Little is known about first-time mothers' expectations of postnatal care, or how these expectations relate to their experiences and appraisal of care. Thirty-two first-time mothers took part in a longitudinal qualitative descriptive study, based on two semi-structured interviews-the first in pregnancy, and the second 2 to 3 months after birth. Trajectory analysis was used to identify the thematic patterns in the relationships between postnatal care expectations, needs, experiences, and confidence. Five trajectories were identified, showing that mothers' satisfaction with postnatal care and confidence were primarily influenced not by the extent to which their expectations were met but the varied extent to which their individual postnatal needs were met. Rapid and responsive assessment of needs both antenatally and postnatally, and appropriate adjustment of care, is key in supporting women effectively at this time.
Keywords: United Kingdom; families; health care; longitudinal trajectory analysis; maternity; mothering; mothers; nursing; postpartum care; qualitative; reproduction; users’ experiences.