Postpartum care content and delivery throughout the African continent: An integrative review

Ashley Gresh, Megan Cohen, Jean Anderson, Nancy Glass

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: The objective of this review was to describe and evaluate the content of postpartum care and models of delivery throughout the African continent. Design: Integrative review was used to allow for the combination of studies using diverse research methodologies. Data sources: A comprehensive search strategy using the phrases ‘postpartum period’, ‘healthcare delivery’, and ‘Africa,’ including all spelling variants and countries within the continent, was used in the following databases: PubMed, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature Plus, and Embase for studies published through September 2019. Review method: The integrative review process included five stages: problem identification, literature search, data evaluation, data analysis and presentation. Twelve studies from eight African countries were identified in the search and met the inclusion criteria for the review. The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool was used to evaluate the quality of the studies included in the review. The theoretical framework developed by the World Health Organization Maternal Morbidity Working Group for healthcare interventions to address maternal morbidity was used for data analysis and to synthesize the results for presentation. Results: Definitions of the postpartum period varied among studies with service delivery ranging from six weeks to one year postpartum. There was no standard package of postpartum care across studies. Based on the World Health Organization theoretical framework, five primary topics were covered in postpartum care interventions: preventive care and counseling, health systems innovation, a life course approach, family planning, and health literacy and education. In contrast, five gaps in content of postpartum care services and service delivery included: integration of screening and treatment of noncommunicable diseases with maternal healthcare, intimate partner violence screening, social protection, a rights-based approach, and social vulnerability. No study addressed all aspects of the World Health Organization framework to address maternal morbidity. Conclusions: The results from this review indicate the need to address gaps in postpartum care services throughout the African continent in order to reduce maternal morbidity. Re- conceptualizing the paradigm of maternal health to take a life course approach and focusing future research on developing and building interventions to target postpartum care and healthcare delivery of postpartum care are necessary and important in efforts to reduce maternal morbidity and improve health outcomes for mother and child.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102976
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Africa
  • Healthcare delivery
  • Maternal health
  • Postpartum period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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