Open Access Open Badges Research article

Coverage, quality of and barriers to postnatal care in rural Hebei, China: a mixed method study

Li Chen1, Wu Qiong1, Michelle Helena van Velthoven2, Zhang Yanfeng1*, Zhang Shuyi1, Li Ye1, Wang Wei1, Du Xiaozhen1 and Zhang Ting3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Integrated Early Childhood Development, Capital Institute of Paediatrics, Beijing, China

2 Global eHealth Unit, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK

3 Department of Molecular Immunology, Capital Institute of Paediatrics, Beijing, China

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-31

Published: 18 January 2014



Postnatal care is an important link in the continuum of care for maternal and child health. However, coverage and quality of postnatal care are poor in low- and middle-income countries. In 2009, the Chinese government set a policy providing free postnatal care services to all mothers and their newborns in China. Our study aimed at exploring coverage, quality of care, reasons for not receiving and barriers to providing postnatal care after introduction of this new policy.


We carried out a mixed method study in Zhao County, Hebei Province, China from July to August 2011. To quantify the coverage, quality of care and reasons for not using postnatal care, we conducted a household survey with 1601 caregivers of children younger than two years of age. We also conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 township maternal and child healthcare workers to evaluate their views on workload, in-service training and barriers to postnatal home visits.


Of 1442 (90% of surveyed caregivers) women who completed the postnatal care survey module, 8% received a timely postnatal home visit (within one week after delivery) and 24% of women received postnatal care within 42 days after delivery. Among women who received postnatal care, 37% received counseling or guidance on infant feeding and 32% on cord care. 24% of women reported that the service provider checked jaundice of their newborns and 18% were consulted on danger signs and thermal care of their newborns. Of 991 mothers who did not seek postnatal care within 42 days after birth, 65% of them said that they did not knew about postnatal care and 24% of them thought it was unnecessary. Qualitative findings revealed that staff shortages and inconvenient transportation limited maternal and child healthcare workers in reaching out to women at home. In addition, maternal and child healthcare workers said that in-service training was inadequate and more training on postnatal care, hands-on practice, and supervision were needed.


Coverage and quality of postnatal care were low in rural Hebei Province and far below the targets set by Chinese government. We identified barriers both from the supply and demand side.

Postnatal care; Coverage; Quality; Mixed method study