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Postpartum: Care Instructions


After childbirth (postpartum period), your body goes through many changes. Some of these changes happen over several weeks. In the hours after delivery, your body will begin to recover from childbirth while it prepares to breastfeed your newborn. You may feel emotional during this time. Your hormones can shift your mood without warning for no clear reason.

In the first couple of weeks after childbirth, it's common to have emotions that change from happy to sad. You may find it hard to sleep. You may cry a lot. This is called the "baby blues." These overwhelming emotions often go away within a couple of days or weeks. But it's important to discuss your feelings with your doctor or midwife.

It's easy to get too tired and overwhelmed during the first weeks after childbirth. Don't try to do too much. Get rest whenever you can, accept help from others, and eat well and drink plenty of fluids.

In the first couple of weeks after you give birth, your doctor or midwife may want to check in with you and make a plan for any follow-up care you may need. You will likely have a complete postpartum visit about 4 to 6 weeks after delivery. At that time, your doctor or midwife will check on your recovery from childbirth and see how you're doing with your emotions. You may also discuss your concerns or questions.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps.
  • Get help with household chores from family or friends, if you can. Don't try to do it all yourself.
  • If you have hemorrhoids or swelling or pain around the opening of your vagina, try using cold and heat. You can put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Also try sitting in 8 to 10 centimetres (3 to 4 inches) of warm water (sitz bath) 3 times a day and after bowel movements.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor or midwife gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor or midwife if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Eat more fibre to avoid constipation. Include foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, raw vegetables, raw and dried fruits, and beans.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Do not rinse inside your vagina with fluids (douche).
  • If you have stitches, keep the area clean by pouring or spraying warm water over the area outside your vagina and anus after you use the toilet.
  • Keep a list of questions to ask your doctor or midwife. Your questions might be about:
    • Changes in your breasts, such as lumps or soreness.
    • When to expect your menstrual period to start again.
    • What form of birth control is best for you.
    • Weight you have put on during the pregnancy.
    • Exercise options.
    • What foods and drinks are best for you, especially if you are breastfeeding.
    • Problems you might be having with breastfeeding.
    • When you can have sex. You may want to talk about lubricants for your vagina.
    • Any feelings of sadness or restlessness that you are having.

When should you call for help?

Share this information with your partner, family, or a friend. They can help you watch for warning signs.

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or another person.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
  • You have a seizure.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.

  • Call or text Canada's suicide and crisis hotline at 988.
  • Call Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (4 p.m. to midnight ET).
  • Go to the Talk Suicide Canada website at for more information.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of hemorrhage (too much bleeding), such as:
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
    • Feeling dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • A fever.
    • Frequent or painful urination or blood in your urine.
    • Vaginal discharge that smells bad.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A colour change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin colour.
  • You have signs of preeclampsia, such as:
    • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
    • New vision problems (such as dimness, blurring, or seeing spots).
    • A severe headache.
  • You have signs of heart failure, such as:
    • New or increased shortness of breath.
    • New or worse swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
    • Sudden weight gain, such as more than 1 to 1.3 kilograms (2 to 3 pounds) in a day or 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds) in a week.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
  • You had spinal or epidural pain relief and have:
    • New or worse back pain.
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness at the injection site.
    • Tingling, weakness, or numbness in your legs or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if:

  • Your vaginal bleeding isn't decreasing.
  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You are having problems with your breasts or breastfeeding.

Where can you learn more?

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