What matters to women in the postnatal period: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies

Finlayson, Kenneth orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1287-7630, Crossland, Nicola orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1063-8123, Bonet, Mercedes and Downe, Soo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550 (2020) What matters to women in the postnatal period: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies. PLOS ONE, 15 (4). e0231415.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231415


Introduction: The postnatal period is an underserved aspect of maternity care. Guidelines for postnatal care are not usually informed by what matters to the women who use it. This qualitative systematic review was undertaken to identify what matters to women in the postnatal period, to inform the scope of a new World Health Organization (WHO) postnatal guideline. Methods: We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, POPLINE, Global Index Medicus, EMBASE, LILACS, AJOL, and reference lists of eligible studies published January 2000–July 2019, reporting qualitative data on women’s beliefs, expectations, and values relating to the postnatal period. Data collection and analysis: Author findings were extracted, coded and synthesised using techniques derived from thematic synthesis. Confidence in the quality, coherence, relevance and adequacy of data underpinning the resulting findings was assessed using GRADE-CERQual. Results: We included 36 studies from 15 countries, representing the views of more than 800 women. Confidence in most results was moderate to high. What mattered to women was a positive postnatal experience where they were able to adapt to their new self-identity and develop a sense of confidence and competence as a mother; adjust to changes in their intimate and family relationships, including their relationship to their baby; navigate ordinary physical and emotional challenges; and experience the dynamic achievement of personal growth as they adjust to the ‘new normal’ of motherhood and parenting in their own cultural context. Conclusion: This review provides evidence that what matters to women in the postnatal period is achieving positive motherhood (including maternal self‐esteem, competence, and autonomy), as well as fulfilling adaptation to changed intimate and family relationships, and (re)gaining health and wellbeing for both their baby, and themselves. Where this process is optimal, it also results in joy, self-confidence, and an enhanced capacity to thrive in the new integrated identity of ‘woman and mother’.

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