Hygiene advice for new mothers

Hand washing before and after you use the toilet or change your maternity pads is very important for all women in helping to reduce your risk of developing an infection. If you have a wound or stitches we have a wound care information leaflet that gives you additional advice on how to keep these areas clean and reduce the chance of infection.

Vaginal bleeding

It is normal to experience blood loss for up to six weeks following the birth of your baby. It is heavier than a period but will reduce gradually over a few days after birth. Breastfeeding and being active may increase your blood loss. It should reduce again when you rest.

If you pass large blood clots (bigger than a 50 pence coin) or have an unpleasant looking or smelling vaginal discharge contact your midwife or GP immediately. We do not advise the use of tampons as this can contribute to infection; continue to use maternity pads until you have your first period.


It is common to have pain soon after giving birth. Resting and simple pain relief (paracetamol or Ibruprofen, if you are not asthmatic) may resolve this. We do not provide simple forms of pain relief to take home; they can be bought  over the counter from a pharmacy. You must avoid taking codeine, especially if you are breastfeeding. Evidence suggests codeine can pass through into breastmilk and has caused sedation and respiratory distress in some newborn babies.  If you have any concerns speak to your midwife or GP for further advice.


You may not have had your bowels opened following the birth of your baby for several days. However, this is normal. To prevent constipation drink plenty of fluids and include fruit and vegetables in your diet. If you have any concerns speak to your midwife or GP for further advice.

Emotional wellbeing

In the days after your baby is born, it is normal to feel tearful, anxious or mildly depressed. Post-birth hormonal changes, adjusting to a new baby, tiredness and discomfort can all contribute to these feelings. It is important to take care of yourself, rest, eat well and seek support from your family and friends until these feelings have passed.

If these feelings continue beyond a few days or you feel your symptoms are very severe, please speak to your midwife, GP or Public Health Specialist Nurse (previously known as Health Visitor).

Recognising potentially serious health conditions in women (NICE 2015)

Symptoms to watch out for What this could mean What you should do
Sudden or very heavy blood loss and signs of shock, including faintness, dizziness, palpitations or tachycardia (when you become aware of your heart beating very fast) Haemorrhage Get emergency medical attention
If there are no signs of haemorrhage but your abdomen feels sore and tender you should be checked for other possible causes Haemorrhage or infection Get emergency medical attention
Fever (high temperature), shivering, abdominal pain or unpleasant vaginal discharge. Your temperature should be taken, and if it’s above 38°C, it should be taken again in 4–6 hours. If your temperature is still high, or there are other signs of infection, you should be checked further Infection Get emergency medical attention
Headache and/or changes in your vision/nausea/vomiting in the first 72 hours after giving birth. You should also have your blood pressure measured. If it’s higher than expected and you have other signs of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, get emergency medical attention. If there are no other obvious signs, it should be measured again within 4 hours. If it is still high, you should have further tests. Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia Get emergency medical attention
Pain, swelling or redness in the calf muscle of one of your legs Blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) Get emergency medical attention
Difficulty breathing, feeling short of breath or chest pain Blood clot (pulmonary embolism) Get emergency medical attention