Mothers' Perceptions and Use of Community Health Services During the Postpartum


Address correspondence to Liz Isenor, R.N., B.Sc.N., Unit Supervisor, Obstetrics, St. Martha's Hospital, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, B2G265. Telephone (902) 863-2830.


Abstract This exploratory study examined the perceptions and use of services provided by community health nurses (CHNs) for two groups of rural mothers sampled one year apart. The stratified samples (30 primiparas, 20 multiparas in each group) consisted of mothers who had normally delivered a healthy, full-term infant in a small regional hospital. A short-term, longitudinal design was used to determine mothers' pre-discharge perceptions of the need for services provided by CHNs; perceptions and use of services at one week postdis-charge and six weeks' postpartum; and variables related to mothers' willingness to initiate seeking information/support from CHNs. All but two mothers had received at least one CHN visit by six weeks' postpartum. The majority were positive about these visits. Most identified a general checkup of the baby or a check of the weight or cord as the most useful services. Only 32 and 26 percent of the women, respectively, had initiated contact with their CHN during this time, and active information seeking was not significantly related to their reports of problems during the postpartum. Mothers tended to rely more on their traditional family networks and reading, and less on their doctors and the CHN for informational support during the postpartum. Mothers' degree of familiarity with CHNs was an important variable in initiating contact. These and related findings suggest the importance of clarifying the role of CHNs to the public, and of recognizing the importance of the interpersonal dimension of that role.