What Is the Postnatal Period?

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According to About Kids Health, the postnatal period is the six weeks immediately following childbirth. This is a time when a woman's body changes from being pregnant to a post-pregnant state. What a woman can expect during this period depends in part on whether she experienced a vaginal or Caesarean delivery.

Also known as the puerperium, the postpartum period sees changes such as the shrinking of the uterus back to its normal size which, according to Medscape, is approximately 5 to 10 percent of its size at nine months of pregnancy. The cervix and vagina shrink as well. In addition, lochia, or postpartum bleeding, lasts up to six weeks on average.

Another change mentioned by Medscape occurs in the breasts in preparation for breastfeeding. The breasts release colostrum during the first two to four days post-delivery until the mother's milk comes in. If a woman chooses not to breastfeed, that milk dries up within a week or two.

According to WebMD, women who have had Caesarean sections undergo a slightly different postpartum experience because they need to take care of the incision site after delivery. In addition, their experience and location of pain differs from that of women undergoing vaginal delivery.

A woman's hormone levels after delivery make some women more likely to experience postpartum depression. If a woman feels more than just the "baby blues" after a week or two, she needs to speak with her doctor right away, suggests Web MD.