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Individualised, flexible postnatal care: a feasibility study for a randomised controlled trial

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posted on 2022-10-19, 03:31 authored by Della ForsterDella Forster, TL Savage, Helen McLachlanHelen McLachlan, L Gold, Tanya FarrellTanya Farrell, Jo-Anne RaynerJo-Anne Rayner, J Yelland, B Rankin, B Lovell
Background: Postnatal care in hospital is often provided using defined care pathways, with limited opportunity for more refined and individualised care. We explored whether a tertiary maternity service could provide flexible, individualised early postnatal care for women in a dynamic and timely manner, and if this approach was acceptable to women. Methods: A feasibility study was designed to inform a future randomised controlled trial to evaluate an alternative approach to postnatal care. English-speaking women at low risk of medical complications were recruited around 26 weeks gestation to explore their willingness to participate in a study of a new, flexible model of care that involved antenatal planning for early postpartum discharge with additional home-based postnatal care. The earlier women were discharged from hospital, the more home-based visits they were eligible to receive. Program uptake was measured, women's views obtained by a postal survey sent at eight weeks postpartum and clinical data collected from medical records. Results: Study uptake was 39% (109/277 approached). Most women (n=103) completed a postnatal care plan during pregnancy; 17% planned to leave hospital within 12 hours of giving birth and 36% planned to stay 48 hours. At eight weeks postpartum most women (90%) were positive about the concept and 88% would opt for the same program again. Of the 28% who stayed in hospital for the length they had planned, less than half (43%) received the appropriate number of home visits, and only 41% were given an option for the timing of the visit. Most (62%) stayed in hospital longer than planned (probably due to clinical complications); 11% stayed shorter than planned. Conclusions: Women were very positive about individualised postnatal care planning that commenced during pregnancy. Given the hospital stay may be impacted by clinical factors, individualised care planning needs to continue into the postnatal period to take into account circumstances which cannot be planned for during pregnancy. However, individualised care planning during the postnatal period which incorporates a high level of flexibility may be challenging for organisations to manage and implement, and a randomised controlled trial of such an approach may not be feasible.


Publication Date



BMC Health Services Research





Article Number



13p. (p. 1-13)


BioMed Central



Rights Statement

© 2014 Forster et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.