The Postnatal Period

The postnatal period begins immediately after you give birth and last until the hospital or midwife discharges you from her care.

The Early Hours

During the first few hours after giving birth, your doctor will continue to monitor you, as there are still many risks to you and your new baby.

Your doctor will monitor that the uterus is contracting properly; that the placenta has been delivered intact; your blood loss and pressure; and your baby's feeding.

Later Hours

Vaginal Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding, also called lochia, will occur after delivery. The color, quantity, and smell are checked so that any infection can be quickly detected. Bleeding can tend to be heavy during the first few days and can last between 7 to 10 days; it will gradually disappear after two or three weeks. The color is bright red during the first few days, then turns pinkish, then light brown, and then lighter, still.

N.B. Bleeding, especially heavy bleeding, that lasts for a long time (i.e. more than 15 days) or that has an offensive smell can be a sign of infection. You MUST seek medical attention.

Uterine pains

Uterine pains persist for 10 to 15 days, but they become less severe after about one week.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence can be a problem after giving birth. This can be caused by a distended perineum, damaged by your efforts during labor, the passage of the baby, or an episiotomy or tear.

It is important to carry out your pelvic floor exercises, and if your problems are particularly troublesome, to see your GP.


Exhaustion after childbirth is normal for most women and is the result of giving birth, meeting your newborn baby, lack of sleep, learning how to feed your baby, and a complete change in lifestyle.

It is necessary that you rest as much as possible after giving birth, that you sleep when your baby sleeps, and that you limit the amount of family and friends that come to visit.


It is common to be constipated for a few days after delivery. Ask for treatment if the constipation persists for several days.


Hemorrhoids are quite common during pregnancy and following delivery. They occur as a result of the baby laying above the rectum, hormones that circulate during pregnancy, and the pressure from pushing during child birth. Your GP can prescribe a treatment to soothe your discomfort.

Menstruation After Giving Birth

If you are bottle feeding or combining bottle and breastfeeding, then your periods could return a quickly as four to five weeks after giving birth. If exclusively breastfeeding, your periods may not return until after you have stopped breastfeeding.

Sexual Intercourse

Sexual intercourse might not be high on your agenda to begin with, but there are no rules about how long you must wait. Take your time, and you might want to try using lubricating gels, as you can be drier than normal.


You should also think about contraception, as there is no way of calculating when your periods will return. This should be taken care of by your GP before leaving the hospital.

Becoming pregnant again can happen quickly after giving birth, and you may want to avoid this. If you don't breastfeed, your choices of contraception include the contraceptive pill, the coil, a diaphragm, or condoms. If you do breastfeed, the mini pill, as well as coils, condoms, caps, or contraceptive injection (Depo) are all safe to use while breastfeeding.

Personal and Genital Hygiene

Having a daily shower is recommended to keep the perineum area clean. Keep the perineum clean and dry, and always wipe from to back to front to prevent germs from your bottom from infecting any wounds or causing a urinary tract infection. Avoid using any creams, lotions, or soaps.

Do not use tampons or try to "douche" the vagina, wait until your post-op checkup before inserting anything into your vagina.

In the immediate postnatal period, if you feel bruised and are tender in the perineal area, then ice packs maybe of some comfort.

Image: © Ilya Andriyanov -
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