Physical Care in the Early Postnatal Period

ongratulations on your pregnancy and your baby. Here is a guide to what you can expect of your body in the early postnatal period - both in hospital and in the first few weeks at home.

Following the birth, the hormones and the excitement of the new babe means that you are usually wide awake for the next day – and then you crash as the babe is starting to wake.

While in hospital, take every opportunity to learn from the experts around you and to rest or sleep in between. Have the idea that if baby is sleeping, you are too.

Take care of yourself

Lie down as much as possible to take the weight of your pelvic floor. You may feel that your privacy has completely eroded. There will be viewings of the pelvic floor to check that you are on track – i.e. not too much bleeding or bruising around the stitches.

Mamas who had a vaginal birth

If your perineum is feeling swollen and sore, use ice packs regularly. Remove them when they melt and replace them an hour or 2 later – don’t leave a wet (not frozen) icepack against your perineum. Pressure can relieve discomfort – try 2 maternity pads for extra thickness – you may want to wear some underpants with mild compression.

Mamas who had a caesarean

There will be a dressing over your wound, it is intended to stay in place for 2 weeks at least. But it will need to be changed if there is bleeding showing through on the surface of the pad. Pressure is usually more useful for pain relief than ice following a caesarean. Put on some compressive underwear.

Getting in and out of bed

Roll on to your side to get out of bed. Drop your feet over the side of the bed and use your arms to push your body up. You may want to hold your pelvic floor or abdomen for the first few days with one hand as you do this. If your baby is in bed with you, it is always easier to get up by yourself and then pick up baby once you are standing.

Moving up the bed if you had a caesarean

There is an easier way move up the bed. First, you bend your knees and then have your partner anchor your feet to the bed as you push away from them and up the bed.


Hold onto your low tummy or pelvic floor if you are tender when you cough. Huffing is easier than a cough on your tummy. Huffing is when you force a breath out of your open mouth.

Passing urine

You should try to pass urine (wee) within 3-4 hours of having the baby. If you are unable to wee let the staff know. Passing urine may sting after a vaginal birth for a day or so – the skin has been very stretched and can feel like a graze. Let the staff know if this does not settle. You can dilute the urine by pouring water over yourself at the same time as you are voiding (weeing).

Passing urine should be easy. Alert a nurse or your doctor if you are unable to wee at all or if you are having to force out the wee. Usually, you are passing urine quite often in the first few days while the body removes the extra fluid you carried during pregnancy.

It is common (but not normal) to have a complete loss of bladder contents when standing up in the first day or so. This is due to the nerves being stretched during the birth process. Let the nursing staff know that it has happened and if it persists.

Drink plen