Women's ideal and real expectations of postnatal care during their first pregnancy: An online survey in England.
Alderdice F., McLeish J., Henderson J., Malouf R., Harvey M., Redshaw M.
BACKGROUND: There are many studies of women's experiences of care during the postnatal period, however little is known about women's expectations of postnatal care. OBJECTIVE: This study explores first-time pregnant women's expectations, both ideal and real life, of postnatal care in England. DESIGN: a descriptive, cross-sectional online survey design was used. The questionnaire took approximately 10 minutes to complete and was developed specifically for this survey. It included an informed consent section, socio-demographic questions and closed tick-box questions on where they had received information on postnatal care, and real and ideal expectations of postnatal care in hospital/birth centre and at home. SETTING: The survey was hosted on the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit website and advertised through a number of third sector and commercial organisations in 2017. PARTICIPANTS: Women who were pregnant, had not given birth before, were aged 16 years and over, and living in England were eligible to participate. ANALYSIS: Survey data were analysed using descriptive statistics and, where appropriate, chi square test using SPSS Version 23. Data from open ended questions were analysed by two researchers separately then codes and themes were discussed until consensus was reached. RESULTS: 283 women responded to the survey of whom 200 were eligible and included in the analysis. Most had received information on postnatal care from multiple sources, with pregnancy classes and midwives being most common. Most expected to stay one day or less in hospital or birth centre after normal delivery. Real life expectations were lower than ideal expectations, and hospital/birth centre real life expectations were higher than home real life expectations for physical health advice/checks and information/help with feeding. Categories developed from the open text answers were 'Respect, compassion and individualised care at a vulnerable time', 'The ward environment', 'Feeling ready for hospital discharge' and 'Help to find support in the community'. KEY CONCLUSIONS: Women in this survey had high ideal world expectations of their postnatal care but in real life expected more focus on checking on their health and that of their baby and on giving information about the new challenges of how to breastfeed and look after a baby. While women valued checks of their health and that of their baby, ideally they wanted easy access to reassurance that they were feeding and looking after their baby well, that they were 'doing it right', and that what was happening to them was normal. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: As well as the necessary checks in the immediate postpartum period, consideration also needs to be given to the best way to meet the informational and support needs of women to optimise their wellbeing and transition to parenthood. A number of resources are used by women that could be enhanced to inform expectations of postnatal care and to provide valuable information to support their postnatal care.