The Postpartum Period Defined

Monday, July 11, 2011

Doris Ugarriza, ARNP, PhD
University of Miami School of Nursing, Coral Gables, FL

Learning Objective 1: identify the dimensions of the postpartum period

Learning Objective 2: recognize the stages of the postpartum period


 The purpose of this poster presentation is to help make clear what is mean by the postpartum period.  At present, the period is used differently by different disciplines ranging from the biological model to the functional model.  Many questions arise regarding the effect of role change, breastfeeding, and type of delivery.


 An integrated review of literature was used to check the professional literature for definitions of postpartum period. Later focused interviews were carried out with 30 postpartum women on what constituted the dimensions and stages of the postpartum period for them.  The interviews were analyzed using content analysis and a model for the postpartum period constructed


 The postpartum period consists of four dimensions, temporal, biological, functional, and psychological. Temporal is measured in two time periods 6 months, and one year.  Biological dimension is identified by hormonal returns to pre-pregnancy levels, cessation of breastfeeding, and women sleeping through the night.  Functional dimension is determined by the mothers' return to prepartum activities and degree of social support. Finally, the psychological dimension is the stabilization of mood, attachment, and bonding.  The stages of the postpartum period are two. The first stage is the early postpartum period characterized by healing and return of menses. The late postpartum period is characterized by sleeping through the night, return to prepartum function, activities, and emotional state.

Conclusion: Having a well defined concept of the postpartum period will help healthcare professionals explain to healthcare consumers the relevant milestones achieved in the period and a means for predicting completion of the milestones.