Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Expectations and experiences of hospital postnatal care in the UK: a systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies
  1. Reem Malouf,
  2. Jane Henderson,
  3. Fiona Alderdice
  1. Nuffield Department of Population Health, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Fiona Alderdice; fiona.alderdice{at}


Objectives To report on women’s and families’ expectations and experiences of hospital postnatal care, and also to reflect on women’s satisfaction with hospital postnatal care and to relate their expectations to their actual care experiences.

Design Systematic review.

Setting UK.

Participants Postnatal women.

Primary and secondary outcomes Women’s and families’ expectations, experiences and satisfaction with hospital postnatal care.

Methods Embase, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL Plus), Science Citation Index, and Social Sciences Citation Index were searched to identify relevant studies published since 1970. We incorporated findings from qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods studies. Eligible studies were independently screened and quality-assessed using a modified version of the National Institutes of Health Quality Assessment Tool for quantitative studies and the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme for qualitative studies. Data were extracted on participants’ characteristics, study period, setting, study objective and study specified outcomes, in addition to the summary of results.

Results Data were included from 53 studies, of which 28 were quantitative, 19 were qualitative and 6 were mixed-methods studies. The methodological quality of the included studies was mixed, and only three were completely free from bias. Women were generally satisfied with their hospital postnatal care but were critical of staff interaction, the ward environment and infant feeding support. Ethnic minority women were more critical of hospital postnatal care than white women. Although duration of postnatal stay has declined over time, women were generally happy with this aspect of their care. There was limited evidence regarding women’s expectations of postnatal care, families’ experience and social disadvantage.

Conclusion Women were generally positive about their experiences of hospital postnatal care, but improvements could still be made. Individualised, flexible models of postnatal care should be evaluated and implemented.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42017057913.

  • postnatal care
  • women’s experience
  • systematic review

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from


  • Contributors FA conceived the idea and planned the project. FA, JH and RM developed the protocol, and RM developed the search strategy. RM, JH and FA screened the search results and full papers, assessed the quality of included papers, extracted the data and synthesised the results. RM, JH and FA drafted the manuscript, and all authors agreed on the final manuscript. RM conducted the search update. RM and FA screened and extracted the updated results, and RM, JH and FA agreed on the revised manuscript.

  • Funding This paper reports on an independent study whichwas funded by the Policy Research Programme in the Department of Health. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Department. The Department of Health was not involved in any aspect of the study.

  • Disclaimer The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Department.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All the data included in this systematic review are in the public domain.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.