Postpartum symptom clusters in birthing individuals: A systematic review.

Journal Article (Review;Journal Article)


Birthing individuals experience various postpartum symptoms which have been associated with adverse health outcomes. Previous systematic reviews have focused on the examination of individual symptoms and their impact on health, which have limited our understanding of postpartum symptom clusters.


To examine the compositions of symptom clusters, analytic methodologies and predictors of symptom clusters in birthing individuals up to 1 year postpartum.


Systematic review.


This systematic review was reported following the PRISMA. Five databases were searched: PubMed, Embase, CINAHL Complete, PsycINFO and Scopus. Two reviewers performed title and abstract and full-text screening independently. Standard Quality Assessment Criteria were used to assess the articles' qualities. Key information was extracted into evidence table, which was checked for accuracy and completeness. A narrative synthesis was conducted.


A total of 30 articles were included. Studies were conducted in 16 countries, mostly in Europe (n = 9) and North America (n = 7). The majority were quantitative (n = 27) and cross-sectional (n = 27). Factor analysis was the most frequently used analytic methodology (n = 21). All three qualitative studies used grounded theory. Taking into consideration the variations among the studies, stress (n = 15, infant or partner-related and from other sources), depression (n = 12), somatic (n = 12) and anxiety clusters (n = 10) were most frequently identified. Symptom cluster predictors were examined in less than half of the included studies (n = 13). Among these, most were focused on how individual postpartum symptoms influence symptom clusters.


Stress, depression, somatic and anxiety clusters are the most frequently identified postpartum symptom clusters. Future studies should examine the consistency, stability and clinical meaningfulness of these four symptom clusters.

Relevance to clinical practice

The identification and management of the four symptom clusters should be of particular interest to clinicians and researchers.

No patient or public contribution

This systematic review did not directly involve patient or public contribution to the manuscript.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Scroggins, JK; Ledbetter, LS; Jones-Hepler, B; Brandon, D; Reuter-Rice, K

Published Date

  • August 2022

Published In

PubMed ID

  • 35995761

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1365-2702

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0962-1067

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/jocn.16494


  • eng