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postpartum period Is the period beginning immediately after the birth of a child and extending for about six weeks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the postnatal period as the most critical and yet the most neglected phase in the lives of mothers and babies; most deaths occur during the postnatal period
It is the time after birth, a time in which the mother's body, including hormone levels and uterus size, returns to a non-pregnant state.
Postpartum Nursing Physical Assessment
Physical Assessment is necessary to identify individual needs or potential problems
Explain to pt purposes of the examination.
obtain her consent.
Record your findings and report results to the mother.
Avoid exposure to body fluids.
Teach pt as you assess – use every opportunity since there is limited time.
EXAMINATION AND CARE OF THE
By the end of this
presentation, we expect you
to understand the following:
1. What the postpartum
2. Assessment of the
3. Nursing care of the
4. Areas of emphasis during
Is the period beginning immediately after the
birth of a child and extending for about six
The World Health Organization (WHO)
describes the postnatal period as the most
critical and yet the most neglected phase in the
lives of mothers and babies; most deaths occur
during the postnatal period
It is the time after birth, a time in which the
mother's body, including hormone levels and
uterus size, returns to a non-pregnant state.
Postpartum Nursing Physical
• Physical Assessment is necessary to identify
individual needs or potential problems
• Explain to pt purposes of the examination.
• obtain her consent.
• Record your findings and report results to the
• Avoid exposure to body fluids.
• Teach pt as you assess – use every opportunity
since there is limited time.
Assessment of the mother
First 24 hours after birth
• All postpartum women should have regular
assessment of vaginal bleeding, uterine
contraction, fundal height, temperature and
heart rate (pulse) routinely during the first 24
hours starting from the first hour after birth.
• Blood pressure should be measured shortly after
birth. If normal, the second blood pressure
measurement should be taken within six hours.
• Urine void should be documented within six
Beyond 24 hours after birth
• At each subsequent postnatal contact,
enquiries should continue to be made about
general well-being and assessments made
regarding the following: micturition and
urinary incontinence, bowel function, healing
of any perineal wound, headache, fatigue,
back pain, perineal pain and perineal hygiene,
breast pain, uterine tenderness and lochia.
• Breastfeeding progress should be assessed at
each postnatal contact.
• At each postnatal contact, women should be asked about
– emotional wellbeing,
– what family and social support they have
– and their usual coping strategies for dealing with day-to-day
• All women and their families/partners should be
encouraged to tell their health care professionals about any
– in mood,
– emotional state
– and behaviour
that are outside of the woman’s normal pattern.
• At 10–14 days after birth, all women should be asked about
resolution of mild, transitory postpartum depression
• If symptoms have not resolved, the woman’s psychological
well-being should continue to be assessed for postnatal
depression, and if symptoms persist, evaluated.
• Women should be observed for any risks, signs and
symptoms of domestic abuse.
• Women should be told whom to contact for advice and
• All women should be asked about resumption of sexual
intercourse and possible dyspareunia as part of an
assessment of overall well-being two to six weeks after
• If there are any issues of concern at any postnatal contact,
the woman should be managed and/or referred.
Maternal history: restored function
Ask the mother if since she delivered, she is :
• now ambulatory / not yet ambulatory
• has passed her bowels / has not yet passed her bowels
• has no flatus / is experiencing some flatus
• has voided her bladder (when) / has not yet voided her
Bowel: Constipation, diarrhea, epigastric pain,
Bladder: urinary retention, urgency, dysuria, incontinence
Assessment of Breasts
• inspect for redness & engorgement.
• Palpate breasts to determine if they are soft or
filling, warm, engorged or tender.
• Teach to promote milk production & let down,
and methods to prevent and treat engorgement.
• Ensure proper bra fit
• Nipples should be soft, pliable, intact & everted
* If mother is NOT breast feeding - DO NOT
palpate breasts or assess nipples
• Abnormal Findings (Breasts)
• Redness, heat, pain, cracked, and fissured
nipples, inverted nipples, palpable mass, painful,
bleeding, bruised, blistered, cracked nipples.
On inspection of the abdomen, Check for presence of visible scars
• be distended : below / above the umbilicus.
• move / does not move with respiration,
palpation of the abdomen:
Ensure privacy and environment where the mother can lie on her
back with her head supported.
Ensure bladder is empty & lay patient supine with legs flexed.
The midwives hands should be clean and warm and help the woman
expose the abdomen.
The midwife places the lower edge of her/his hand at the umbilical
area and gently palpates inwards towards the spine until the
uterus fundus is located.
Assessment of the uterine fundus.
It should be firm, if not, massage prior palpation &
assess for any blood discharged during massage.
Assess its location and the degree of uterine
contraction, any tenderness or pain should be
• Normal findings: normal size and shape, mobile,
regular, firm, in the midline, below the umbilicus
& non tender.
• Abnormal findings: immobile, irregular, soft, tender,
deviated away from the midline or above the umbilicus
• Fundal height is measured in cm above or below the
• Note: * fundus is 2 cm below the level of the umbilicus
immediately after birth; fundus descends
approximately 1 cm per day; by the 10th day the
fundus should no longer be palpated
• *If fundus is deviated or elevated above level of
umbilicus always rule out DISTENDED BLADDER
• Once the midwife has completed the assessment, she
helps to dress and sit up.
Postpartum vaginal loss
• Lochia: is the vaginal loss following birth.
• As involution progresses, the vaginal loss reflects this, and
it changes from fresh blood loss to one that contains stale
blood products (lanugo, vernix, and debris from the
unwanted products of conception)
• Lochia rubra: dark red (red) discharge; occurs the first 3
• Lochia serosa: pink, serosangineous discharge; lasts 3-10
• Lochia alba : creamy or yellowish discharge (white);
occurs after the Tenth day and may last a weeks or two.
• When lochia subsides, uterus is considered closed;
postpartal infection is less likely.
• On examination, Note the:
– amount, colour, consistency, odour & presence of clots
Note: * the amount is assessed in relation to TIME (scant, light,
moderate, heavy). It should be odourless, with no clots & gets
less each day.
• Also assess woman’s pad changing practices & her type of
• Teach proper wiping & progression of lochia
• Abnormal Findings (Lochia)
– Heavy, foul odour, bright red bleeding, clots, amount more than
Assessment of vaginal blood loss
• Questions to ask:
Is the blood loss more or less?
Color and the amount of blood loss(Lighter/ dark)
Any concerns about the blood loss?
• Ask if she has passed any clots and when it occurred.
(Clots are associated with prolonged bleeding
• Ask the mother to describe the size of vaginal loss in a
sanitary pad, frequency of changing the pad because of
saturation level, comparison of clots to familiar items
e.g. : 50 shs coin, or a plum.
1. Risk for urinary tract infection is increased, if client
was catheterized during labor and delivery.
2. May have bruising and swelling caused by trauma
around the urinary meatus.
3. Increased bladder capacity, along with decreased
sensitivity to pressure leads to urinary retention.
4. Diuresis occurs during the first 2 days after
5. Bladder distention may displace the uterus,
leading to a boggy uterus and increase risk for
Assessment of Episiotomy (Perineum)
• Inspect with patient in Sims position.
• Lift buttock to expose perineum & anus
• If present, assess episiotomy or laceration for REEDA.
– Should have minimal tenderness with gentle palpation,
– No hardened areas or hematomas.
• Assess knowledge, practice, & effectiveness of self peri-
• Educate about suture absorption
• Advice on what might help perinial pain: use of salts, or savlon in
bath water to reduce pain and improve healing.
• Abnormal Findings (Perineum)
– Pronounced edema, wound edges not intact, signs of infection,
Assessment of perinial pain
• Women feel brused around the vagina regardless the trauma in the first few
days after birth.
• In cases of actual perenial injury, a woman will experience pain for several days
until healing takes place
• Long term psychological and physiological trauma is also evident
• The midwife observes perinial area to ascertain progress of healing from any
• Appropriate care immediately after birth or where suturing has taken place can
help reducing edema or bruising.
• Very important Qn: the midwife ask the mother whether she has any
discomfort in the perinial area regardless of any record of actual pernial
• Clear information and reassurance are helpful where women have a poor
understanding of what happened and are anxious or embarrassed about
urinary, bowel or sexual functioning in the future
• If there is no pain in the perinial area, the midwife should not examine.
• For majority of the women, the perinial wound gradually becomes less painful
and should occur 7 to 10 days after birth.
Maternal examination: legs
*do a homan’s sign test (to detect early DVT)
• Assess for signs of DVTs, i.e. asymmetric: size,
color, or temperature.
• Asses for signs of superficial thrombophebitis
(redness, warmth, tenderness, pain in that
limb, darkening of skin over or hardening of
Maternal examination: affect
• sleep deprivation
• ability to rest
• energy level
• comfort level
• anxiety level
• bonding behaviours
• support system (family, husband, self supported)
Vital signs and general health
• Pulse rate, respiratory rate, body temperature,
any outward odour, skin condition and the
woman’s overall color and complexion as you
listen to what the mother is saying.
• If no history of hypertension, BP should return to
normal within 24 hours.
• chest should be: clear, with good air entry
bilaterally, and no added breath sounds
• Note the respiratory rate.
• Encourage prescribed medications and supplementation;
e.g. iron tablets, vitamin A
• Introduce exercises (e.g., Kegel/vaginal, abdominal).
• Remind or give postnatal clinic visit appointment. (6,6,6,6)
• Encourage and provide family planning counseling.
• Examine the infant for normal weight gain and
performance of pediatric activities like milestones.
• Answer both mother’s and family’s questions.
• Counsel Mother about Infant Immunization Schedule and
ensure the mother can get access to immunization center.
• Assess and advise on breastfeeding.
• Monitor and advise the mother on feeding,
hygiene and life style.
• Assess and care for the mother about any
infection or disease and manage as soon as
• How do you know that an infant is getting enough breast milk?
• Hear infant swallow and make “ka” or “ah” sounds.
• See smooth nutritive suckling, smooth series of sucking and
swallowing with occasional rest periods, not the short, choppy
sucks that occur when the baby is falling asleep.
• Breast gets softer during the feeding
• Breast-feeding 8-12 times per day; more milk is produced with
• Infant has at least 2-6 wet diapers per day for 1st 2 days after birth;
6-8 diapers per day by the 5th day.
• Infant has at least 3 bowel movements daily during the 1st month
and often more.
• Infant is gaining weight and is satisfied after feedings.