Get access

Barriers to Optimal Social Support in the Postpartum Period


  • Jennifer L. Barkin,

    Corresponding author
    • Correspondence Jennifer L. Barkin, PhD, Mercer University School of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine, 1550 College Street, Macon, GA 31207.

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Joan R. Bloch,

  • Kristina C. Hawkins,

  • Tiffany Stanfill Thomas

  • The authors report no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.



To examine the specific barriers to mothers’ realization of social support during the first-year postpartum.


A qualitative approach in which social support data were analyzed thematically.


An urban medical center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Thirty-one women who had given birth in the year prior to study enrollment were recruited through posted flyers at multiple community sites.


Data were collected during three focus groups. The data that related to social support were extracted from a larger qualitative data set and analyzed separately for prominent social support inhibitors.


Major themes that emerged were availability of trustworthy child care, cost of child care, demands of infant care, changing priorities, a transient population, and availability of family.


Emergent barriers to social support such as the demands of infant care and changing priorities are likely challenges for women regardless of socioeconomic status. However, the volume of text related to availability (proximity) of family, availability of trustworthy child care, and the consequences of a transient lifestyle may be attributed to the composition of the study sample.