Objective: To investigate changes in functional status after childbirth from 6 weeks to 6 months post-delivery.
Design: Prospective, longitudinal survey.
Setting: Maternal-child health centers and immunization clinics in regional New South Wales, Australia.
Participants: Two hundred Australian mothers from culturally diverse backgrounds, ages 20-35 years, who had experienced normal pregnancies, labors, and deliveries and delivered healthy singleton infants between 37 and 42 weeks gestation.
Main outcome measures: The Inventory of Functional Status After Childbirth.
Results: Significant increases in functional status were noted in household (t = -6.871, df = 311, p = .0001), social (t = -5.856, df = 311, p = .0001), and self-care activities (t = -3.469, df = 313, p = .0006). However, none of the mothers had achieved full functional status by 6 months postdelivery.
Conclusions: A gradual resumption of past role-related activities may reflect the normal adjustments required when a woman becomes a mother. Mothers not only resume most aspects of previous roles, but also add to their multiple role demands by assuming primary responsibility for infant care. Further investigations are required to identify why aspects of certain roles are resumed and others are discarded either temporarily or permanently.