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Conceptualising women's perinatal well-being: a systematic review of theoretical discussions

Wadephul, Franziska; Glover, Lesley; Jomeen, Julie


Franziska Wadephul

Lesley Glover

Julie Jomeen


Background: Perinatal well-being has increasingly become the focus of research, clinical practice and policy. However, attention has mostly been on a reductionist understanding of well-being based on a mind-body duality. Conceptual clarity around what constitutes well-being beyond this is lacking.
Aim: To systematically review theoretical discussions of perinatal well-being in the academic literature.
Design and methods: A search of online databases identified papers which discussed perinatal well-being theoretically, taking a multi-dimensional approach to well-being. Thematic synthesis was used to identify and synthesize relevant elements within the included papers.
Findings: Eight papers were identified for inclusion in this review. All contributed a number of elements towards a theoretical discussion of perinatal well-being. Three themes were developed: (1) the importance of a number of general domains of women’s lives and domains specific to the perinatal period, (2) well-being as a subjective and individual experience with physical/embodied, affective, and psychological/cognitive aspects, and (3) the dynamic nature of well-being.
Conclusions and implications for practice: Perinatal well-being is a complex, multi-dimensional construct. Current theoretical discussions in the academic literature do not provide a comprehensive model or conceptualisation covering all aspects of well-being during the perinatal period. Further theoretical work is required, particularly with regards to theorising well-being during labour and birth, the perinatal period as a continuum, and the role played by women’s expectations. The themes identified in this review contribute to a tentative model of perinatal well-being, taking note particularly of the dynamic nature of well-being. This model should be refined and validated through empirical work and can then be used to underpin further research and the development of a multi-dimensional measure of perinatal well-being.


Wadephul, F., Glover, L., & Jomeen, J. (2020). Conceptualising women's perinatal well-being: a systematic review of theoretical discussions. Midwifery, 81, Article 102598.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Dec 2, 2019
Online Publication Date Dec 3, 2019
Publication Date 2020-02
Deposit Date Dec 3, 2019
Publicly Available Date Dec 4, 2020
Journal Midwifery
Print ISSN 0266-6138
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 81
Article Number 102598
Series ISSN ISSN 0266-6138
Keywords Perinatal well-being; Maternal well-being; Pregnancy; Birth; Postnatal; Systematic review
Public URL
Contract Date Dec 3, 2019


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