postpartum care

Harmful postpartum beliefs and practices of mothers in India: rapid policy brief

In different cultures and regions across India, specific traditional beliefs and practices are observed during the postpartum period to ensure recovery and avoid ill health of mothers in later years. However, some of these beliefs and practices may prove to be harmful and impact maternal and newborn health outcomes negatively.

The District Medical Officer (DMO), Malappuram, Kerala identified some undesirable and/or harmful postnatal care (PNC) practices being encouraged by post-natal care attendants supporting women for 40 days post-delivery. The DMO, with support from an action group of obstetricians in the district, intends to design and develop training modules to address the harmful practices, particularly in relation to nutrition and breastfeeding.

She requested our RES team to conduct a rapid review that could support her in this policy endeavour. The team together with the DMO concurred on summarising evidence on three relevant components:  recommendation from relevant guidelines on best practices for postnatal care, harmful postpartum beliefs and practices of mothers in India, and training of post-natal care attendants for post-natal care, nutrition and breastfeeding. This would provide the DMO with an evidence base to develop the training modules.

This rapid review identified and summarised some of the commonalities in harmful postpartum cultural practices across different regions and settings in India.

Policy options:

  • Health education and promotion programmes should identify and discourage mothers and their family members from resorting to locally prevalent harmful postpartum practices.
  • A checklist of healthy postpartum practices may be developed for postpartum mothers, their families and for newborn care.
  • It is important that community level health workers such as the ANMs, Anganwadi, and ASHAs in rural India are supported to develop locally tailored behaviour change communication strategies related to postpartum care.