First time mothers' expectations and experiences of postnatal care in England

Analysing the expectations and realities of postnatal care in England, in order to identify areas for attention and improvement. 

postnatal care large


  • Professor Merryl Harvey
  • Fiona Alderdice
  • Jenny McLeish
  • Maggie Redshaw
  • Jane Henderson
  • Reem Malouf (National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford)

Research background

Postnatal care is the aspect of maternity care that mothers are least satisfied with and evidence suggests that the current model of care is not fit for purpose. However, little is known about women’s expectations before their baby is born about what their postnatal care will be like, or how these expectations compare with the postnatal care that they subsequently experience. The study is funded by the Policy Research Programme of the Department of Health 

Research aims

The aim of this research project is to analyse mothers' experiences of postnatal care in England, and to identify how this related to their expectations. 

Research methods

A longitudinal qualitative descriptive study was undertaken. Recorded telephone interviews were conducted with women in the final weeks of their pregnancy and again 6-8 weeks after the birth of their baby. Participants were recruited from women/mothers who had taken part in a national online survey earlier in their pregnancy.  Participants were also recruited via parenting organisations, social media and personal contacts. Forty women took part in the first interview and 32 in the second. The recordings were transcribed and are being analysed using thematic analysis.


This study is ongoing. The findings will be presented at national and international conferences. Papers are also being developed for publication in international peer-review journals.