Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Clinical guidelines for postpartum women and infants in primary care–a systematic review

Crishan Haran, Mieke van Driel, Benjamin L Mitchell and Wendy E Brodribb*

Author Affiliations

Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Level 8, Health Sciences Building, Herston 4029, Australia

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:51  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-51

Published: 29 January 2014

Abstract

Background

While many women and infants have an uneventful course during the postpartum period, others experience significant morbidity. Effective postpartum care in the community can prevent short, medium and long-term consequences of unrecognised and poorly managed problems. The use of rigorously developed, evidence-based guidelines has the potential to improve patient care, impact on policy and ensure consistency of care across health sectors. This study aims to compare the scope and content, and assess the quality of clinical guidelines about routine postpartum care in primary care.

Methods

PubMed, the National Guideline Clearing House, Google, Google Scholar and relevant college websites were searched for relevant guidelines. All guidelines regarding routine postpartum care published in English between 2002 and 2012 were considered and screened using explicit selection criteria. The scope and recommendations contained in the guidelines were compared and the quality of the guidelines was independently assessed by two authors using the AGREE II instrument.

Results

Six guidelines from Australia (2), the United Kingdom (UK) (3) and the United States of America (USA) (1), were included. The scope of the guidelines varied greatly. However, guideline recommendations were generally consistent except for the use of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale for mood disorder screening and the suggested time of routine visits. Some recommendations lacked evidence to support them, and levels or grades of evidence varied between guidelines. The quality of most guidelines was adequate. Of the six AGREE II domains, applicability and editorial independence scored the lowest, and scope, purpose and clarity of presentation scored the highest.

Conclusions

Only one guideline provided comprehensive recommendations for the care of postpartum women and their infants. As well as considering the need for region specific guidelines, further research is needed to strengthen the evidence supporting recommendations made within guidelines. Further improvement in the editorial independence and applicability domains of the AGREE ll criteria would strengthen the quality of the guidelines.

Keywords:
Postpartum care; Clinical guidelines; AGREE II; Maternal health; Infant health