Chapter 3: Executive Summary: What Mothers Say: The Maternity Experiences Survey – Postpartum

Executive Summary - Findings

Chapter 3: Postpartum

Length of Maternal Stay in Hospital

One-third (33.6%) of women with a vaginal birth reported a short hospital stay (i.e., less than two days) and more than half (53.0%) of women with a cesarean birth reported a short stay (i.e., less than four days) following the birth of their baby. Seventy percent (69.5%) of women reported their hospital stay as “about right” regardless of the length of their stay.

Breastfeeding Rates

Although the majority (90.3%) of women initiated breastfeeding, the proportion of women reporting either exclusive (14.4%) or any (53.9%) breastfeeding at six months postpartum was much lower. Breastfeeding rates were higher in western than in eastern Canada, increased with maternal age and educational level, and were higher among women living in a household above the low income cut-off.

Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)

Most mothers (80–90%) reported having enough information about breastfeeding, being given information about community breastfeeding resources and being assisted with initiating breastfeeding. Practices not supportive of breastfeeding and the BFHI steps were also reported. These included: 50.2% of breastfeeding babies not being fed solely on demand in the first week after the birth, 44.4% of breastfeeding babies being given a pacifier during the first week after the birth, 35.8% of mothers being given or offered free formula samples, 35.0% of babies being away from the mother’s room for more than one hour in the first 24 hours after the birth and 19.8% of babies commencing breastfeeding too early (i.e., within five minutes of birth).

Home Contact and Satisfaction with Postpartum Care

The majority (93.3%) of women reported being contacted at home by a health care provider after giving birth. On average, women were contacted at about seven days after birth and among those with a hospital or clinic birth, at about four days after discharge. This varied considerably among provinces and territories. Two-thirds (66.0%) of women reported being “very satisfied” with the health care they received after birth, while 74.5% of women reported being “very satisfied” with their infant’s health care after birth.

Postpartum Information

Women reported their most useful source of postpartum information to be health care providers (29.4%), family and friends (20.5%), books (18.9%) and previous pregnancy (18.5%). Women reported that they had enough information on basic infant and maternal care (e.g., car seats, birth control, postpartum depression), but seemed somewhat less informed on issues related to the transition to parenthood (e.g., sexual changes, physical demands on the mother’s body after having a baby, effect on relationship with partner).

Maternity Leave

About three-quarters (78.6%) of women reported working at a paid job or business at some point during their pregnancy. About two-thirds (68.3%) of women worked during their pregnancy and received some maternity or parental benefits, although this varied across provinces and territories. Of the mothers who worked during their pregnancy, 11.6% had returned to work within six months of the birth.

Maternal Postpartum Health

Although 42.3% of all women reported having “a great deal of a problem” with at least one postpartum health issue during the first three months after the birth, most women (72.5%) reported their health as either excellent (33.6%) or very good (38.9%) at the time of the interview. Less than 3% (2.5%) of women were readmitted to hospital during the first three months following the birth. Just over a quarter (27.9%) of women reported a non-routine postpartum health care visit.

Postpartum Depression, Previous Depression and Support

Using the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale, 7.5% of women scored 13 or higher, suggesting depression at the time of the MES interview. Higher proportions of scores of 13 or higher were observed in women aged 15–19 years (14.0%), women living in a household at or below the low income cut-off (13.7%), and women with less than a high school education (13.5%). The proportion of women who had been prescribed antidepressants or been diagnosed with depression prior to their pregnancy was 15.5%. Most women (84.0%) reported having support in the postpartum period either all the time (51.1%) or most of the time (32.9%).

Infant Health

Most infants (93.8%) were born at 37 completed weeks of gestation or more. Few (3.6%) infants were readmitted to hospital within one month and 6.7% were readmitted within five months of birth. The majority (92.8%) of women reported that their infant was either in excellent (70.8%) or very good (22.0%) health at the time of the interview. Women living in a household at or below the low income cut-off, women with less than a high school education and younger mothers (15–19 years) were less likely to report that their baby was in excellent health.

Infant Sleep Position

The majority (90.2%) of women reported receiving enough information about sudden infant death syndrome. This varied by province and territory, household income level and maternal education. Overall, about three-quarters (77.4%) of women reported putting their baby to sleep on their back. Younger women, multiparous women, women with lower levels of education and women living in a household at or below the low income cut-off were less likely to report infant back sleeping position.

Male Circumcision

About one-third (31.9%) of women reported having their male baby circumcised. This proportion varied widely among provinces and territories.


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