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Variation in the practice of intrapartum and postpartum bladder care reported by 189 maternity units in England and Wales hospitals was evaluated by analysing the data obtained from a postal questionnaire completed by labour ward managers or heads of midwifery. The survey revealed that there was no consensus of opinion about the diagnostic criteria for postpartum urinary retention and therefore the optimum management for voiding dysfunction remains controversial. In spite of the increasing awareness of the risk management issues involved, the majority of the units were found to be non-compliant with the limited RCOG recommendations currently available. Although further research is needed to develop evidence-based guidelines, all units should be timing and measuring the voided volume and ideally checking the first post-void residual volume to ensure that retention does not go unrecognised.