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Postpartum Physical Symptoms in New Mothers: Their Relationship to Functional Limitations and Emotional Well-being

Authors

  • David A. Webb PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. 1David A. Webb was a Senior Research Associate and 2Jennifer Flatow Culhane was an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Drexel University School of Medicine at the time of this study; both are now affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 3Joan R. Bloch is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the Drexel University; 4James C. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 5Ian M. Bennet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and 6Esther K. Chung is an Associate Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA.
      David A. Webb, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Mail Stop 495, 245 North 15th Street, 17th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.
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  • 1 Joan R. Bloch PhD, CRNP,

    1. 1David A. Webb was a Senior Research Associate and 2Jennifer Flatow Culhane was an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Drexel University School of Medicine at the time of this study; both are now affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 3Joan R. Bloch is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the Drexel University; 4James C. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 5Ian M. Bennet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and 6Esther K. Chung is an Associate Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA.
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  • 3 James C. Coyne PhD,

    1. 1David A. Webb was a Senior Research Associate and 2Jennifer Flatow Culhane was an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Drexel University School of Medicine at the time of this study; both are now affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 3Joan R. Bloch is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the Drexel University; 4James C. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 5Ian M. Bennet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and 6Esther K. Chung is an Associate Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA.
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  • 4 Esther K. Chung MD, MPH,

    1. 1David A. Webb was a Senior Research Associate and 2Jennifer Flatow Culhane was an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Drexel University School of Medicine at the time of this study; both are now affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 3Joan R. Bloch is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the Drexel University; 4James C. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 5Ian M. Bennet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and 6Esther K. Chung is an Associate Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA.
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  • 6 Ian M. Bennett MD, PhD,

    1. 1David A. Webb was a Senior Research Associate and 2Jennifer Flatow Culhane was an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Drexel University School of Medicine at the time of this study; both are now affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 3Joan R. Bloch is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the Drexel University; 4James C. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 5Ian M. Bennet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and 6Esther K. Chung is an Associate Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA.
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  • and 5 Jennifer Flatow Culhane PhD, MPH 2

    1. 1David A. Webb was a Senior Research Associate and 2Jennifer Flatow Culhane was an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Drexel University School of Medicine at the time of this study; both are now affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 3Joan R. Bloch is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the Drexel University; 4James C. Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 5Ian M. Bennet is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and 6Esther K. Chung is an Associate Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA.
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  • This research was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ATPM TS-0626 and TS-0561, Atlanta, Georgia, and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development/RO1HD36462-01 A1, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

David A. Webb, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Mail Stop 495, 245 North 15th Street, 17th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Background: Postpartum physical health problems are common and have been understudied. The purpose of this investigation was to explore the associations among reported physical symptoms, functional limitations, and emotional well-being of postpartum women. Methods: The study included data from interviews conducted at 9 to 12 months postpartum from 1,323 women who had received prenatal care at nine community health centers located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, between February 2000 and November 2002. Emotional well-being was assessed with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and perceived emotional health. Functional limitations measures were related to child care, daily activities (housework and shopping), and employment. A summary measure of postpartum morbidity burden was constructed from a checklist of potential health problems typically associated with the postpartum period, such as backaches, abdominal pain, and dyspareunia. Results: More than two-thirds (69%) of the women reported experiencing at least one physical health problem since childbirth. Forty-five percent reported at least one problem of moderate or major (as opposed to minor) severity and 20 percent reported at least one problem of major severity. The presence, severity, and cumulative morbidity burden associated with postpartum health problems were consistently correlated with reports of one or more functional limitations and measures of emotional well-being including depressive symptomatology. Conclusions: Although physical problems typically associated with the postpartum period are often regarded as transient or comparatively minor, they are strongly related both to women’s functional impairment and to poor emotional health. Careful assessment of the physical, functional, and emotional health status of women in the year after childbirth may improve the quality of postpartum care. (BIRTH 35:3 September 2008)

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