Integrative Review of Research on General Health Status and Prevalence of Common Physical Health Conditions of Women After Childbirth


      Postpartum mothers experience certain physical health conditions that may affect their quality of life, future health, and health of their children. Yet, the physical health of postpartum mothers is relatively neglected in both research and practice. The purpose of this review is to describe the general health status and prevalence of common physical health conditions of postpartum mothers.


      The review followed standard procedures for integrative literature reviews. Twenty-two articles were reviewed from searches in scientific databases, reference lists, and an up-to-date survey. Three tables were designed to answer review questions.


      In general, postpartum mothers self-rate their health as good. They experience certain physical conditions such as fatigue/physical exhaustion, sleep-related problems, pain, sex-related concerns, hemorrhoids/constipation, and breast problems.


      Despite a limited number of studies, the findings provide a glimpse of the presence of a number of physical health conditions experienced by women in the 2 years postpartum. In the articles reviewed, physical health conditions and postpartum period were poorly defined, no standard scales existed, and the administration of surveys varied widely in time. Those disparities prevented systematic comparisons of results and made it difficult to gain a coherent understanding of the physical health conditions of postpartum mothers. More longitudinal research is needed that focuses on the etiology, predictors, and management of the health conditions most prevalent among postpartum mothers. Instruments are needed that target a broader range of physical conditions in respect to type and severity.
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      Ching-Yu Cheng is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research focus is on maternal health, especially on health disparities. She is currently conducting a biobehavioral research of maternal stress and health status.


      Qing Li, an obstetrician and gynecologist in China and a trained perinatal epidemiologist at University of Alabama at Birmingham, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Her research interests focus on global health and maternal and child health issues. Dr. Li's studies have been funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.