• Attention;
  • Attentional demands;
  • Childbirth education;
  • Concentration;
  • Early discharge;
  • Postpartum;
  • Pregnancy

obiective The purpose of this study was to examine changes in women's directed attention, the ability to focus or concentrate, during the last trimester of pregnancy and during 1st week postpartum.

Design Pregnant women were tested at enrollment (during the 3rd trimester), at 37 weeks gestation, and during the 1st postpartum week for this descriptive, repeated measures study.

Setting Women were recruited from childbirth education classes in southwestern Michigan.

Participants Fifty-seven women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

Main Outcome Measures: Directed attention was measured objectively by the Digits Span Forward and Backward, Trailmaking A and B, and Category Matching tests. Subjective measures were the Attentional Function Index and Mental Effort in Tasks tests.

Results Participant means on the objective measures were within the normal range at all three time points. Some individuals, however, showed limitations in the capacity to direct their attention. Ability to use directed attention was lowest at enrollment and improved during the study, with statistically significant changes from Times 1 to 2 on several measures. Subjectively, the participants felt that they had moderately low competence on tasks that required directed attention throughout the study.

Conclusions Women had the greatest difficulty focusing during the 3rd trimester. Some individuals had problems with tasks requiring directed attention at all three time points. Many participants perceived that their ability to pay attention was lower than normal. Some women may benefit from nursing interventions to reduce attentional demands during the 3rd trimester and early postpartum period.