What does postnatal care do for women's health?

Lancet. 1999 Jan 30;353(9150):343-4. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)74945-X.


PIP: In developed countries, postpartum care begins in the hospitals where most women give birth. In the UK, midwives continue postpartum care with home visits up to the 10th day, which can be extended to the 28th day if necessary. Then care is transferred to the health visitor who performs child health surveillance to age 5 years. Family physicians usually perform the 6-week postpartum maternal check-up. This routine, which was more appropriate in days when serious postpartum maternal infection was prevalent, seeks to promote and monitor maternal and infant health but its ability to meet these goals is questionable (this includes the value of a 6-week vaginal exam). Common and persistent maternal problems such as backache, perineal pain, urinary or bowel incontinence, sexual problems, hemorrhoids, depression, or exhaustion are not addressed by this routine. Research in Australia suggests that the timing as well as the content of maternal care should be reexamined. In this case/control study, no differences were found in health outcomes at 3- and 6-month follow-up among women who received their postpartum exam at 1 week from those who were examined at 6 weeks. It may be beneficial to base postpartum care on women's individual needs rather than on routine, but this must be investigated in order to devise proper guidelines and distinguish the roles of various health professionals. Reorganization of the delivery of postpartum care to improve its impact on women's health is a priority in the UK, and several research trials are in progress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Welfare
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Welfare
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Postnatal Care / methods*
  • Postnatal Care / trends*
  • Pregnancy