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Keywords:

  • postnatal;
  • debriefing;
  • maternity services;
  • survey

Background. The evidence for postnatal debriefing generally lacks clarification of what postnatal debriefing constitutes. This is true of the recommendation in the United Kingdom for midwives to undertake ‘active postnatal debriefing’ (Department of Health 1999).

Aim. The study aimed to explore current practice and describe the provision of postnatal debriefing in two health regions of England.

Methods. A descriptive survey using cohort sampling was undertaken using a self-report questionnaire which was sent to each maternity unit in the two regions (n = 46). A response rate of 93% (n = 43) was obtained. The questionnaire collected information about the maternity units and their provision of ‘postnatal debriefing’. A list of debriefing descriptors formed the basis of the questionnaire, and comprised activities that various authors had included in their definitions of debriefing.

Results. Responses indicated that 38 (88%) of maternity units offered women an opportunity to ‘debrief’ by discussing their experiences of maternity care. The provision of this service fell into three distinct sub-groups: firstly, those who provided a service which is in keeping with debriefing, however not all the maternity units actually called their service debriefing; secondly, those who provided a service which is fundamental postnatal care, usually called routine postnatal care; thirdly, those who provided a service which was inconsistent and neither debriefing nor postnatal care. This inconsistency was also reflected in the names chosen for the service.

Conclusions. The findings of this study support previous claims that confusion about postnatal debriefing continues. Recommendations for practice are made with the intention of promoting a consistent approach; this would also enable further research and evaluation to be conducted.