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Postnatal period

While most of your focus would have been on your pregnancy and labour, the period after birth (postnatal period), is just as important. The postnatal period lasts up to 6 -8 weeks and begins straight after the birth of your baby.

During this period you will go through many physical and emotional changes while learning to look after your baby. It is important to get rest, eat well and enjoy your new journey of motherhood.

Changes to your body

Your body will not go back instantly after birth. Some women feel okay about their bodies at this time but others don’t. You may feel like your body is not your own. Your body has gone through changes during your pregnancy and labour. The weight you gained helps make sure you have enough nutrition for breast feeding.

  • Variety of healthy foods such as fish, meat, oils, nuts, seeds, cereals, beans, vegetables, cheese and milk
  • focus on eating low-fat foods that balance protein, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables.
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • enjoy broad range of healthy foods not able to be eaten in pregnancy.
  • only a small amount of foods and drinks high in salts, saturated fats and/or sugar.
  • if you are breastfeeding allow your hunger and thirst to regulate your food and fluid intake.
  • also include adequate amounts of iron enriched foods to help counteract anaemia.
  • slimming diets should be avoided if breastfeeding.


It takes about 6 weeks for your uterus to return to normal size. During this time, it is normal to experience period-like bleeding. Most women experience red, heavy bleeding for 2-4 days, lessening to a lighter colour which may continue for up to 6 weeks.

If you notice that the loss has an offensive smell, becomes heavy or bright red after the first 4-5 days please inform your GP, midwife or return to the nearest emergency department.

During this time some women experience abdominal cramping (also known as afterbirth pains), particularly women who have had subsequent births. You will also experience heavy bleeding while breastfeeding in those early days. After birth pains are normal and are part of your bodies recovery after birth. Your next period may return after 6 weeks, but if exclusively breastfeeding (meaning that your baby is feeding 6-12 times in 24 hours both during day and night and not given any other supplements), this maybe delayed.

Taking care of you

Rest is an important part of your recovery after having a new baby. All mothers need to rebuild their strength to cope with the demands of their baby.

Here are some hints to help to avoid getting too tired:
  • sleep when your baby sleeps
  • limit your visitors while in hospital as those couple of days are very daunting
  • keep your baby near you at night to make night feeds easier
  • ask for or dilly out jobs to take the burden of you.

It is quite normal to feel emotional ,upset and burst into tears for no particular reason. This is known as ‘baby blues’ and usually disappear after a few days with plenty of rest and support and do not require any treatment.


After having your baby you probably wont be thinking about being sexually intimate There are no rules about when you have sex even if you have stitches. Making love should be when you feel comfortable but you will need to think about contraception.

Don’t wait until your 6 week postnatal check to think about it. It is possible to fall pregnant after 4 weeks post baby even without having your period.

You may be able to resume using your previous birth control methods you used in the past or you may decide to use something else. Talk to the staff before discharging from hospital to find out what option maybe suitable for you.

Perineal care

If you have stitches, you may still be sore. Regular pain relief and ice packs are recommended to help with recovery. Also washing this area regularly will help in reducing the risk of infection. You may also see small fragments of the stitches over the few weeks post delivery. This is just your stitches gradually dissolving as this area heals. You can download Care of your perineum fact sheet here.


Constipation can sometimes occur post delivery. Drinking plenty of water, eating fresh fruit and vegies and high fibre foods will help counteract this problem. Light exercise is also an important part for your recovery.

Breast changes

Initially after delivery there are no changes to your breasts. The changes occur when the milk comes in which is around day 3 or day 4 depending on the demand from feeding. These changes will occur whether you breast feed or not.

When the milk has come in it is important to have a well-supported, fitted bra. You may also wish to wear breast pads at this time to absorb any unexpected leaking. It is important to read lots of information about breastfeeding before delivery. Attending breastfeeding classes and getting yourself well prepared before hand is essential to breastfeed successfully.


You may experience some swelling post delivery in your hands and feet. This swelling is due to the excess fluid you have been carrying around during your pregnancy. This is normal and will go away after a few days.
Rest and elevation while sitting will help relieve some of the swelling. Light exercise is important as well.

Back care

Your back can be sore post baby due to labour , hormonal changes during the pregnancy and the shift in weight from the growing uterus. It is important to take care when bending and lifting heavy objects after delivery. Being conscious of your posture while sitting and breastfeeding will also limit back pain. While in hospital attend the physio class held on the ward MON-FRI 930am. You can download the The Exercise before and after birth fact sheet here.

Pelvic floor care

After having a baby it is sometimes common for women to experience stress incontinence. This is passing small amounts of urine when coughing, laughing, or if the bladder is too full.

Drink fluids regularly and frequent emptying of your bladder, every 3-4hours will help. This can be prevented by building up your pelvic floor through exercises. Speak to the staff about these exercises or alternatively attend the physio class on the ward MON-FRI 930am. You can download the The pelvic floor fact sheet here.

Your relationship

A new baby changes the dynamics of your relationship. You and your partner will feel the emotional stress of becoming new parents in those first few weeks .Regular communication between you both is important. Also think about having sometime together without the baby.

Being a mother is different for everyone. You are not expected to be an expert, you will get things wrong. You will gets lots of advice from others, but you will find what works for you. You will soon discover your own routines and which advice you will utilise.

Preventing blood clots

Blood clots are a leading cause of preventable death in Australia.Most blood clots occur in the deep veins of the legs or groin. Occasionally, clots break free from the area and move to other parts of the body, including the lungs.

Early detection and treatment of clots can help reduce the risk of harm.To read more on Venous thromboembolism......

Fact sheets