Postnatal care

Mothers' bodies will go through major adjustments after giving birth. It’s important to look after yourself during this time.


It takes about six weeks for your uterus to return to its usual size. During this time it’s normal to experience light, period-like bleeding, especially during breastfeeding.

Most women bleed for two to 12 days. Then it gradually lessens and stops after about six months. Seek medical attention if your blood:

  • increases in amount
  • is bright red in colour
  • has a foul or odd smell.

If you have vaginal/perineal stitches you are likely to find the area tender, and for healing it is advisable that the area remain clean. During this time, it’s recommended that you use maternity pads, changing them every 2-3 hours. Wash the area with water and pat dry twice a day.

To avoid stinging pain from urinating, lean or tip your body forward slightly while sitting on the toilet.


It’s common to experience pains in your abdomen, like period pain. These pains are your uterus changing and can be soothed by placing a heat pad over the affected area while breastfeeding. You can also take pain relief medication (follow instructions on the packet).

If you've had a caesarean section

If you’ve had a caesarean section, wash as normal but pay special attention to keeping the wound clean and dry. Dry yourself by patting thoroughly with a towel. Contact your family doctor or Maternal and Child Health nurse if you’re worried about your wound.


When you’re breastfeeding it’s important to watch what you eat. Nutrition experts recommend:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit.
  • Eat plenty of cereals (breads, rice, pasta, noodles), preferably wholegrain.
  • Eat some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein.
  • Eat some dairy foods (milk, cheeses and yoghurts) – try to choose the reduced fat varieties where possible.
  • Drink water to your thirst (about 2 litres per day).
  • Only a small amount of foods and drinks high in salts, saturated fats or sugar.

For more advice or if you’re worried about your diet, speak to your family doctor, a dietitian or your Maternal and Child Health nurse.

Care for pelvic floor muscles

During pregnancy hormones and the weight of your baby can result in the weakening of your pelvic floor muscles.

It’s important to recognise which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles as they help maintain continence. These exercises are designed to help find them:

  • Find a position where the muscles in your thighs, buttocks and stomach are relaxed.
  • Focus on squeezing the ring muscle around the back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind. Try not to squeeze your buttocks together. Practice squeezing and releasing.
  • When sitting on the toilet, try to stop the stream of urine. This practice is used to determine the pelvic floor muscles and should only be done once a week. If you still can’t find the muscle or you can’t stop your urine stream, don’t stress. Contact your family doctor or Child and Maternal Health nurse. Even women with the weakest pelvic floor muscles get their strength back.