AskDefine | Define postnatal

Dictionary Definition

postnatal adj : occurring immediately after birth; "postnatal development" [syn: postpartum] [ant: prenatal, perinatal]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. of or pertaining to the period immediately after birth


Extensive Definition

Postnatal (Latin for 'after birth', from post meaning "after" and natalis meaning "of birth") is the period beginning immediately after the birth of a child and extending for about six weeks. The period is sometimes incorrectly called the postpartum period, which refers to the mother and, less commonly, puerperium.
Biologically, it is the time after birth, a time in which the mother's body, including hormone levels and uterus size, return to prepregnancy conditions. Lochia is post-partum vaginal discharge, containing blood, mucus, and placental tissue.
During the first stages of this period, the newborn also starts his/her adaptation to extrauterine life, the most significant physiological transition until death.
In scientific literature the term is commonly abbreviated to PX. So that 'day P5 should be read as 'the fifth day after birth'.

The postnatal period

A woman in the Western world who is delivering in a hospital may leave the hospital as soon as she is medically stable and chooses to leave, which can be as early as a few hours postpartum, though the average for spontaneous vaginal delivery (SVD) is 1-2 days, and the average caesarean section postnatal stay is 3-4 days. During this time bleeding, bowel and bladder function, and baby care are monitored.


The mother is assessed for tears, and is sutured if necessary. Also, she may suffer from constipation or hemorrhoids, both of which would be managed. The bladder is also assessed for infection, retention and any problems in the muscles.
The major focus of postpartum care is ensuring that the woman is healthy and capable of taking care of her newborn, equipped with all the information she needs about breastfeeding, reproductive health and contraception, and the imminent life adjustment.
Some medical conditions may occur postnatally, such as Sheehan Syndrome.
In some cases, this adjustment is not made easily, and hormonal disturbances may lead to postnatal depression or even puerperal psychosis.


Postnatal depression ("Baby blues") is very common, with approximately 50% of women suffering from it, potentially as early as 24 hours postpartum. It is usually limited in duration, lasting 36 to 48 hours. Apart from empathy and support from caregivers and family, treatment is not required. Approximately 10-20% of women will suffer the symptoms of major depression, and should be treated accordingly. Postpartum depression may be the response to the hormonal changes and life adjustment the woman goes through immediately after childbirth.
Postnatal Psychosis (also known as puerperal psychosis), is a more severe form of mental illness than postpartum depression.
Care provided by a postpartum doula will support the mother, assist with breastfeeding and baby care which enhances her confidence, helping to lessen her chances of developing postpartum depression or other postpartum mood disorders.


In East Asia

In some East Asian cultures, such as Chinese and Vietnamese, there is a traditional custom of postpartum confinement known in English as doing the month or sitting the month (Mandarin zuò yuèzi 坐月子). Confinement traditionally lasts 30 days, although regional variants may last 40, 60 or as many as 100 days. This tradition combines prescribed foods with a number of restrictions on activities considered to be harmful to the woman's recovering body. Family elders or (more recently) health professionals help the woman to recover after parturition.
Prohibited activities include washing one's hair, bathing, climbing steps, touching cold water, reading, and crying; sexual activity is prohibited, and the woman is not supposed be exposed to the wind or to sew. She is not supposed to consume anything cold, anything hard, any salt, any plain water, or anything containing alcohol or other foods considered to have strong medicinal properties (Chinese: 毒性 dúxìng).
Foods that are specifically prescribed for the period of confinement include:
  • shenghua (生化) soup (made with angelica root, roast ginger, licorice root, and other strong-tasting herbs that are considered to have specific medicinal effects),
  • chicken soup made with no seasonings other than sesame oil and rice wine
  • the kidneys, heart, and liver of the pig.
It is widely believed in many East Asian societies that this custom helps heal injuries to the perineum, promote the contraction of the uterus, and promote lactation.

See also

postnatal in Bosnian: Babinje
postnatal in German: Wochenbett
postnatal in Spanish: Puerperio
postnatal in French: Post-partum
postnatal in Korean: 산욕
postnatal in Croatian: Babinje
postnatal in Italian: Puerperio
postnatal in Polish: Połóg
postnatal in Swedish: Barnsäng
postnatal in Chinese: 產後護理
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