Postpartum health of employed mothers 5 weeks after childbirth

Patricia M McGovern, Bryan E Dowd, Dwenda K Gjerdingen, Cynthia R Gross, Sally J Kenney, Laurie Ukestad, David McCaffrey, Ulf Lundberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Most new mothers return to work soon after childbirth. A need exists to reexamine the definition of postpartum health and evaluate employed women's recovery from childbirth in association with such factors as delivery type and breastfeeding. METHODS: Using a prospective cohort design, we recruited Minnesota women into the study while they were hospitalized for childbirth in 2001. Telephone interviews were conducted 5 weeks postpartum. Eligible women were 18 years or older, employed, and spoke English. Multivariate models using 2-stage least squares were used to estimate factors associated with physical and mental health and postpartum symptoms. RESULTS: A total of 817 women were enrolled (71% response) in the study; 716 women completed interviews at 5 weeks postpartum. On average, women reported 6 postpartum symptoms, most frequently fatigue (64%), breast discomfort (60%), and decreased desire for sex (52%). Findings showed that cesarean (vs vaginal) deliveries were associated with significantly worse physical function, role limitations, and vitality. Multivariate findings showed that the effect of delivery type on physical health was moderately large (β = -5.96; P = <.01), and breastfeeding was associated with an increased frequency of postpartum symptoms (β = 4.63; P = .01). CONCLUSIONS: These mothers experienced several childbirth-related symptoms at 5 weeks postpartum, indicating a need for ongoing rest and recovery. Health concerns were greater for women who were breastfeeding and for those whose babies were delivered by cesarean section, suggesting a need for greater support for these women and a reassessment by the medical community of the progressively growing practice of cesarean deliveries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Maternal welfare
  • Occupational health
  • Postnatal care
  • Postpartum period
  • Women's health


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