The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently published guidelines on the management of women and their newborn infants during the first 6 to 8 weeks post-delivery. The NICE guidelines aim to describe the best practice advice on the core care of women and their babies during the postnatal period. The present scheme of postnatal care was developed many years ago and NICE has reviewed it based on existing evidence. Unsurprisingly, the scientific evidence for best practise is incomplete. The money and time spent on postnatal care in Britain alone justifies a systematic evaluation but the clinical efficacy of existing practice has also raised concerns. The high proportion of women who intend but fail to breast feed successfully, the number of women who complain of additional health problems in the weeks following delivery and the number of infants with significant anomalies that are unrecognised when examined postnatally are some of the reasons for questioning whether we are offering families optimal care. In addition, the NICE guidelines point out that various recent surveys have found significant levels of dissatisfaction with the post-natal care amongst the women who have received it. We have confined our review to the advice on infant care although the wellbeing of mothers is inextricably linked to that of their infant and vice-versa.
- Postnatal care
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