Exploring Birthing Parent Needs During the Early Postpartum Period with Emphasis on Sleep and Interactions between Healthcare Team Members, Infants and Birthing Parents

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2026-02-07

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2024

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Abstract

Parents who give birth (e.g., mothers, birthing parents, primary caregivers) experience a vast array of needs during the early postpartum period. While unique needs across all individuals are likely innumerable, generally needs focus on taking care of oneself, taking care of one's infant, and dyadic needs such as feeding an infant. One example of a generalized health need is the physiologic need for the birthing parent to receive sufficient sleep. Yet, birthing parents may experience significant deficits in sleep during the early postpartum period, and these unmet sleep needs can significantly impact the parent’s physical and mental well-being during this crucial and transformative period of life. Therefore, this dissertation study explores the concept of postpartum needs and how they emerge and, in particular, investigates maternal experiences of sleep during the first days postpartum. These topics are explored through two studies. First, in a qualitative descriptive study of 22 birthing parents we assessed their perspectives of postpartum needs and how these needs emerge. Then, using videotaped recordings of 15 postpartum families during an in-depth multiple case study, we used behavioral observation methods to code the experiences of 15 postpartum families and their health care team members as videotaped during postpartum hospitalizations. This study provided key insights into the patterns and context of postpartum maternal sleep and awakenings. These findings include describing the interactions that contributed to a median 2.6 hours of sleep for the birthing parents during the last 24 hours of their inpatient stay. In conclusion, we found that parents experience numerous unmet needs during the postpartum period, best understood within the complex socioecologic context in which they arise. These patient-focused findings elevate the importance of aligning health care services in hospital settings and at home with birthing parent needs.

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Hepler, Bonnie Marie Jones (2024). Exploring Birthing Parent Needs During the Early Postpartum Period with Emphasis on Sleep and Interactions between Healthcare Team Members, Infants and Birthing Parents. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30302.

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