Early postnatal discharge is itself not a new concept. Its first recorded use was in New Orleans, 1942, when postnatal mothers were discharged soon after birthing to relieve pressure on crowded hospital situations. Since then, the effects of early postnatal discharge on mothers and babies have been widely studied, but the research has primarily focused on the safety to mothers and babies of going home early.
Lock’s study took as its focus the experience of mothers who elected early discharge. The women who participated in that study (a mixed group of first-, second- and third-time mothers), had chosen to take early discharge before they went into hospital. The project tracked their experiences, and provided a reflective evaluation made about six weeks after coming home.
Much of the focus in early childhood and community settings is on the health of the infant. While this is clearly important, the physical, emotional and social needs of the mother must not be overlooked.
This paper will briefly describe some of the common physical problems and social stresses experienced in the first six months after birth. Whilst recognising that some of the issues highlighted in this paper are often discussed in relation to postnatal distress and depression, this paper does not attempt to provide a comprehensive coverage of those aspects of women’s health in the first six months. There are many materials available that specifically address postnatal distress and depression.