Little is known about how information needs change over time in the early postpartum period or about how these needs might differ given socioeconomic circumstances. This study's aim was to examine women's concerns at the time of hospital discharge and unmet learning needs as self-identified at 4 weeks after discharge.
Data were collected as part of a cross-sectional survey of postpartum health outcomes, service use, and costs of care in the first 4 weeks after postpartum hospital discharge. Recruitment of 250 women was conducted from each of 5 hospitals in Ontario, Canada (n = 1,250). Women who had given vaginal birth to a single live infant, and who were being discharged at the same time as their infant, assuming care of their infant, competent to give consent, and able to communicate in one of the study languages were eligible. Participants completed a self-report questionnaire in hospital; 890 (71.2%) took part in a structured telephone interview 4 weeks after hospital discharge.
Approximately 17 percent of participants were of low socioeconomic status. Breastfeeding and signs of infant illness were the most frequently identified concerns by women, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Signs of infant illness and infant care/behavior were the main unmet learning needs. Although few differences in identified concerns were evident, women of low socioeconomic status were significantly more likely to report unmet learning needs related to 9 of 10 topics compared with women of higher socioeconomic status. For most topics, significantly more women of both groups identified learning needs 4 weeks after discharge compared with the number who identified corresponding concerns while in hospital.
It is important to ensure that new mothers are adequately informed about topics important to them while in hospital. The findings highlight the need for accessible and appropriate community-based information resources for women in the postpartum period, especially for those of low socioeconomic status.