Mother and baby

The quality of postnatal care provided to women and families in the first days and weeks after birth can have a significant impact on their experience of the transition to parenthood.

First time parents often have very limited experience of the physical and emotional demands of their new roles and responsibilities which can be quite a challenge.

Research repeatedly shows more negative comments from service users in relation to hospital postnatal services than about any other aspect of maternity care. NCT believes that all parents should be able to access good quality postnatal support in their local community.

The September 2017 issue of NCT Perspective looks at what happens when babies are born early, before 37 weeks. One in 12 babies is born preterm and may require specialist care, often involving a long stay in hospital. We see some of the likely causes and risk factors for preterm birth, and what is understood about how to reduce risk. We learn from research into the experiences of parents whose babies were born very preterm, about how a more sensitive approach can make an enormous difference to parents. We also see how new research is helping to improve care for very preterm babies.

NCT's report on women’s experiences of postnatal care Left to your own devices: the postnatal care experiences of 1260 first-time mothers 2010 found that women's feedback and accounts of their experiences indicate widely varying standards of postnatal care. Around half of first-time mothers indicated they had high quality care although one in eight were highly critical, reporting insensitivity, inconsistent advice, inadequate assessments and care, lack of emotional support and/or too few home visits.  NCT used these research findings as a basis for a campaign Postnatal care: still a Cinderella story?

Physical and psychological problems resulting from childbirth can have a major impact on women's wellbeing and daily functioning in the immediate postnatal period. Raising awareness without creating fear looks at what practitioners can tell clients about the perineum, perineal trauma and postnatal recovery. In The pelvic floor, inside and out, physiotherapist and stand-up comedian Elaine Miller brings the taboo subject of pelvic floor health out into the open. Fleur Parker discusses ways that practitioners can can help parents manage their expectations of the first few weeks after having a baby in Helping parents make the most of the six-week check.

Kangaroo care, in which a newborn baby is given lots of skin-to-skin contact with mother, has been used for several years in the care of premature babies. in 2009, a midwife at Pembury Hospital in Kent suggested introducing kangaroo care for preterm babies on the postnatal ward.

For information and articles on postnatal mental health, please see the section under Public health.

When the unexpected happens and parents experience the loss of a baby, practitioners can help parents to cope with bereavement.

Government and professional body publications.

NCT supports the NICE guideline on postnatal care (applicable to England and Wales) published in July 2006. The Postnatal care guidelines, which covers the core care that every healthy woman and healthy baby should be offered during the first 6-8 weeks after the birth. Although for most women and babies the postnatal period is uncomplicated, care during this period needs to address any deviation from expected recovery after birth. This guideline gives advice on when additional care may be needed.

In May 2010, NICE published the clinical guideline on neonatal jaundice. Jaundice is one of the most common conditions needing medical attention in newborn babies. Jaundice refers to yellow colouration of the skin and the sclerae and is caused by a raised level of bilirubin in the circulation, a condition known as hyperbilirubinaemia.