Maternal physical health symptoms in the first 8 weeks postpartum Academic Article uri icon


  • To describe prospectively the extent, onset, and persistence of maternal physical health symptoms (cesarean delivery pain, perineal pain, back pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence, and fatigue) in the first 8 weeks postpartum.A prospective cohort of 229 primiparous women was recruited antenatally from a public and a private maternity hospital, Melbourne, Australia, between 2009 and 2011. Data were collected by self-report questionnaires at weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8. Main outcome measures were a checklist of maternal health symptoms and a standardized assessment of fatigue symptoms.Birth-related pain was common at week 1 (n = 80/88, 91% cesarean delivery pain; n = 92/125, 74% perineal pain), and still present for one in five women who had a cesarean birth (n = 17, 18%) at week 8. Back pain was reported by approximately half the sample at each study interval, with 25 percent (n = 48) reporting a later onset at week 2 or beyond. Fatigue was not relieved between 4 and 8 weeks.Women experience significant morbidity in the early weeks postpartum, the extent of which may have been underestimated in previous research relying on retrospective recall. Findings contribute to the growing body of evidence that supports early identification, treatment, and support for women's physical health problems in the postpartum.

publication date

  • 2015