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New Evidence Supports Need for Earlier Postpartum Care and an Extended Definition of the Postpartum Period

This study snapshot outlines findings from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded research examining the type, frequency, and timing of health care use among postpartum and non-postpartum women.

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In the United States, postpartum maternal morbidity has risen dramatically over time and an estimated one third of pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after childbirth. Until recently, clinical guidelines only recommended a single postpartum follow-up visit six weeks after childbirth. In May 2018, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended that all women receive an early postpartum contact within three weeks and a comprehensive postpartum visit within three months postpartum, but little evidence exists to guide decisions about how to reorganize follow-up care so that clinical practice conforms to new ACOG recommendations.

This study snapshot outlines research by Maria Steenland, research assistant professor at Brown University, and colleagues that sought to address this gap in the literature by examining the frequency, timing and reason for health care use among postpartum women in the year after childbirth compared with non-postpartum women. Their findings suggest that, given that postpartum women receive more problem-related care than non-postpartum women until 16 weeks postpartum, an expanded definition of the postpartum period for follow-up, beyond the 12 weeks currently suggested in the ACOG 2018 guidelines, is warranted.

Full study details and findings are available in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

This project is funded as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Data for Action program, managed by AcademyHealth.

Maria Steenland

Maria Steenland, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow - Brown University

Maria Steenland is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University’s Population Studies and Training Center. Read Bio