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Tō Hauora Whai Muri mai i to Whānautanga | Your health after birth

It is important not to forget to take care of yourself after birth. On this page you will find information on:

Postnatal checks

After birth at each visit in hospital and home, your lead maternity carer will perform regular checks to make sure you are recovering well from childbirth.

This check may include:

  • Breasts and nipples - to check their condition and assess milk supply
  • Uterus - to ensure it is returning to pre-pregnant size (usually by six weeks)
  • Lochia (blood loss) - amount, colour and odour
  • Perineum/wound - to check healing, if appropriate, and observe for signs of infection.
  • Bladder/bowels - to check that they're functioning normally.
  • Legs - to observe for signs of blood clots and to check that swelling is reducing
  • Pelvic floor exercises - instruction and encouragement, to reduce the risks of incontinence later in life


Support at home

Some mothers will have more support than others. Some families are more prepared for the new baby, both physically and emotionally, than others. A great deal of parenting is instinctive, but help is essential to surviving long nights and challenging times with your new baby

We encourage you to:

  • Talk to your LMC about how you are feeling and coping. They will talk to you about support groups and networks in the community that can help you to adjust to parenthood. 
  • Try to find play groups and coffee groups in your area, so that you can meet other new mothers.
  • Locate and visit your local Plunket Family Centre()
  • Take advantage of genuine offers from friends or family to help with housework and cooking. Remember the saying 'it takes a village to raise a child'. 

You may also wish to join the free healthy eating and living programme offered by the Green Prescription().

24-hour help

While you're in hospital, you can ask for help any time of the day or night. The midwives are there to help. Once you're at home, your visiting midwife will provide you with a list of phone numbers for round-the-clock help.

For free 24-hour advice within New Zealand you can call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 or Healthline on 0800 611 116. 


Farewell to your LMC

At your final meeting with your LMC, they will talk to you about:

  • your GP as your 'go to' person if you have any problems
  • keeping fit and active
  • local community support groups available to you
  • referral to other health professionals if necessary


Am I eligible for paid parental leave?

The two main payments are:

  • Best Start (also called Best Start tax credit), part of the Working for Families package, and
  • Paid parental leave (PPL).

For more information, take a look at the IRD information().

Your physical wellbeing


In hospital: Sleeping can be difficult in a hospital setting. Take every opportunity to rest when you can; this normally means resting when your baby does. Visitors will always wait or come back later if you explain you need to rest.

At home: Once you're home from hospital, it's very important in the first few weeks to get as much rest and sleep as possible. You need to continue to sleep when your baby sleeps. Encourage visitors to come at the same time, rather than have a steady stream of well-wishers throughout the day.


In hospital: Meals are provided on the wards and at Birthcare. While every effort is made to meet your individual needs, if you have special dietary requirements, it may be better to have a relative provide some of your meals and/or snacks.

At home: It's important to maintain your strength by getting enough to eat and drink. Your body is trying to heal and you have a baby to breastfeed and care for. Focus on good nutrition - 5+ fruit and vege, calcium-rich foods, lean protein and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice). Ideally you will need breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks in between. You also need five to eight glasses of water per day.


In hospital: National Women's is a 'baby friendly' hospital, which means that breastfeeding is fully supported on the wards. The health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding are significant for you and your baby, and the best preparation is information.

At home: Your LMC will continue to give you advice and support with your choice of feeding. If you are returning to work, you are entitled (by law) to a safe place in your workplace to breastfeed or express milk for your baby.


Depending on the type of birth you had, hospital midwives will encourage early mobilisation and movement. If you've had a caesarean section this means within the first six to 12 hours. Short walks followed by rest will help to prevent complications of bed rest, such as chest infections and the formation of blood clots.


Your LMC will discuss ongoing contraception choices with you and provide information, so that you and your partner know the pros and cons of each method.

There are several options you may wish to consider after birth. See our information leaflet on contraception options after birth.

Cervical screening

If you haven't had a smear test within the last three years, your LMC will encourage you to make an appointment to have a test approximately three months after the birth of your baby. Usually this will be done by your GP or primary care doctor.

Your mental wellbeing

Energy levels

In hospital: You can expect to feel tired and exhausted - having a baby is hard work (but it's also very rewarding!). Learn to snatch sleep whenever your baby is sleeping. Don't be afraid to ask for help from the hospital or Birthcare staff; they are there to assist and support you.

At home: Ask family and friends to help you. Ideally your partner and family need to treat you as 'Queen', at least for the first two weeks. This means providing nourishing food and allowing you to sleep whenever baby sleeps. The family should take over all the household duties for the first few weeks so that you can focus on establishing breastfeeding and making a quick recovery.

Bonding with your baby

We encourage and support 'rooming in' (sharing a room with your baby) at Women's Health. Rooming in gives you more opportunity to bond with your baby, helping to set the foundations for a happy lifelong relationship.

The majority of women who have just given birth feel emotionally and physically tender. Your body is likely to be sore and tired, but your heart is open to the tiny individual who was so recently part of you. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you're receiving differing advice from family, friends and health professionals, all of whom think that their advice is correct! Remember, you will probably know instinctively what will suit you and your baby.

If your baby needs special attention in the neonatal unit (NICU), our staff will support and help you to visit your baby as much as possible. Sometimes you are ready for discharge before your baby, and this will mean that you will have to visit the hospital daily for feeding, cuddles and advice on caring for your new baby.

Postnatal depression

It's very common for women to feel down and tearful after the birth of their baby, especially around day three or four ('the baby blues'). Try not to worry; allow yourself to cry and get as much rest as possible. These feelings are caused by normal hormonal changes and will pass.

If you continue to feel down, talk to your LMC or GP. You can be referred for additional care should you need it. Also talk about how you're feeling with your family and friends - they know you best and can help you to get assistance.

For more information, take a look at this leaflet on postnatal depression.

You can also visit this website on postpartum depression.


Even when things are progressing normally, pregnancy and new parenthood can put stresses on you, your partner and your immediate family. Patience, understanding and a positive attitude are essential for your support crew; they should be listening to your needs and giving you time to adapt to motherhood.

Physically a woman's sexuality may change during the antenatal and postnatal period, due to hormonal changes and the way she feels about her body. Partners can help to reduce issues affecting the relationship by being patient and understanding.

If you are being deliberately hurt by a member of your family, call Shine on 0508 744 633.