Postnatal care is defined as the care provided to a woman and her newborn child after delivery. This care is provided for the first six weeks after the birth of the child. It is common practice to refer to the first 24 hours after delivery as the ‘early postnatal period.’ However, the phrase ‘late postnatal period’ refers to the time period beyond 24 hours and up to 6 weeks following birth as the ‘late postnatal period.’

It is critical that both the mother and the newborn infant have a thorough physical examination and evaluation within one hour of birth, six hours after birth, as well as during the first 24 hours following birth and before being discharged from the hospital to their home. For this reason, it is recommended that mothers stay at the hospital for at least 24 hours after delivery. This is in order to ensure close monitoring of both mother and child. This also provides the mother with an opportunity to relax.

Following the immediate postpartum period, a minimum of three visits is advised within the first six weeks after delivery. This is usually done 2–3 days after birth, 7–14 days after birth, and 6 weeks after delivery, according to a standard schedule. Therefore, it is necessary to reconsider which components of postnatal care may be offered at or near to the patient’s home by community-based or primary care health practitioners, and which components could be provided efficiently at the healthcare facility level.

It is critical that women receive high-quality postpartum care from a qualified healthcare professional. The care provided at the time of birth and in the immediate postnatal period should be provided by a skilled birth attendant, who is defined as “an accredited health care professional – such as a midwife, doctor, or nurse – who has been educated and trained to proficiency in the skills needed to manage normal (uncomplicated) pregnancies and childbirth, as well as the identification, management, and referral of complications in women and newborn babies.”

Additionally, competent birth attendants are available to provide care during later postnatal care visits to a hospital institution. Postnatal care can be given in part or in full by a variety of various cadres of healthcare professionals at the community level, including in certain cases by a community-based health care worker in some contexts. The provision of a comprehensive package of postnatal care at all levels is essential in all circumstances. This includes clear referral channels in place for mothers or babies who develop problems or sicknesses that need additional investigation and management.

For the mother and her family, childbirth and the period immediately following childbirth are significant social and cultural events that must be celebrated. In order to successfully begin their new life together, it is critical that a supportive atmosphere exists in which a mother, her infant, and their family feel well educated and equipped.

All postnatal care consultations should be conducted in a setting where the mother and infant may be seen together by the same healthcare professional at the same time. This should be in a room or area that is warm and bright, well ventilated, and where the appropriate level of privacy can be maintained.

It is essential that the health and well-being of both mother and child be prioritized during the postnatal care consultation. A ‘debriefing’ and discussion of what happened during pregnancy and birth, as well as whether or not there were any issues or challenges, gives for a better understanding of what could happen in future pregnancies. Options for family planning should be explored and made available.

A woman’s understanding of the possible consequences of any tests or investigations performed during and after pregnancy should be addressed with her once the findings of such tests or investigations have been reviewed with her.

It is a good time to assess maternal co-morbidities and determine whether the mother has been checked and treated for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, syphilis, anemia, hypertension, or diabetes while she is expecting the baby. When a mother has a new baby, she will have the opportunity to bond with her child, nurture and feed her child. She will require support and advice during this time, as well as the ability to express any concerns she may have about herself and her newborn child.

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Written By:

Michael Adegboye

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