Pilot study looks to improve health and wellbeing education for postpartum mothers
Numerous programs exist to support health during pregnancy, yet few programs exist in the postpartum period that focus on the health and wellbeing of new mothers.
Researchers at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) and the University of Wollongong (UOW) looked to address this, developing a pilot online program to improve access to expert education and support postpartum.
PhD Candidate, Hannah Christie, led the feasibility study to identify barriers, and inform, develop, and evaluate the ‘Beyond the Bump’ (BtB) program for postpartum mothers. Ms Christie worked alongside supervisor, Dr Monique Francois and a team of health professionals across the world, including clinicians from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD).
“Significant emotional and physical changes occur during postpartum, making it important to improve health behaviours to reduce the risk of chronic disease,” said Ms Christie.
“We know that the transition to motherhood can present new barriers, particularly partaking in physical activity, so we looked to address these.”
Based off a needs assessment analysis, a national ten-week online program was developed including live and recorded sessions. Factors considered from the needs assessment were built into the program including time, day, location, format, topics, and barriers.
“We developed an online format to provide better access to the study. Health service access, particularly in regional areas, can be a barrier for women and was placed under further stress with COVID-19,” said Ms Christie.
Program topics focused on education including neonatal first aid, sleep, diet, lactation, and childhood development. Each session also included physical activity, focusing on pelvic floor, mobility, advancing core and tips on making time for exercise.
Despite significant interest and reported need for the program, attendance to the sessions was poor, ranging from only 23% down to 5%. Many participants cited the same barriers mentioned in the needs assessment as their reason for not attending.
“This may be due to mothers placing higher value on the health of the baby but less on themselves,” said Ms Christie.
Previous research reported other programs facing similar issues, which may indicate a need to incorporate a program during pregnancy with a pathway into postpartum.
“Future postpartum programs may benefit from integrating other platforms of use and to separate the program by months postpartum and relevant information needed during this time.”
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