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Postpartum Health Promotion Interventions: A Systematic Review

Fowles, Eileen R.; Cheng, Hsiu-Rong; Mills, Susan

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e3182556d29

Background: The postpartum period is a time of significant transition when women may discontinue positive health behaviors adopted during pregnancy. Little is known about the effectiveness of health promotion interventions targeting postpartum women.

Objective: The aim of this study was to synthesize the published evidence from randomized controlled trials conducted in the United States on the effectiveness of interventions promoting maternal health in the first year after childbirth.

Methods: Studies conducted in the United States and published from 1999 through May 2011 were identified in MEDLINE, CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), and PsycINFO and reviewed.

Results: Eleven studies were identified measuring health promotion behaviors as an outcome. Nine of the 11 targeted at-risk groups. Methodological problems included incomplete description of the intervention, steps taken to ensure representativeness of the sample, and identification and control of potential confounders. Diverse aspects of health promotion were addressed, the length of participant involvement differed, and the effectiveness of the interventions varied.

Discussion: Further research is needed to design interventions focused on promoting health in the general population of postpartum mothers.

Eileen R. Fowles, PhD, RNC-OB, is Formerly an Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin.

Hsiu-Rong Cheng, MEd, MSN, RN, is Doctoral Student, School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin, and Instructor, Chung Hwa University of Medical Technology, Taiwan.

Susan Mills, MSN, RN, is Doctoral Student, School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin.

Accepted for publication March 7, 2012.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Corresponding author: Eileen R. Fowles, PhD, RNC-OB, 10747 W. Roundelay Circle, Sun City, AZ 85351 (e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.