Postnatal education

For the best recovery after birth

Postnatal physiotherapy

Postnatal recovery time can last for 12 months, and the first six weeks are particularly important.

Your pregnancy hormones have caused a lot of changes over nine months, and baby’s delivery (whether vaginal or Caesarean) means your body needs extra care.

This page can help guide you in your recovery so that you can enjoy this special time with your baby.

Postnatal physiotherapy assessment

A postnatal assessment with a pelvic health physiotherapist is recommended six weeks post-delivery.

This is different from your appointment with your obstetrician, and an important part of postnatal recovery.

In this assessment we will screen, assess, and treat you for any bladder, bowel, pelvic floor muscle, abdominal muscle, or musculoskeletal issues.

To book your postnatal assessment, please call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book online.

↑ Back to top

Southcare classes

Mother and baby pool class

The Southcare Physiotherapy mum and bub’s hydrotherapy exercise class is offered between 8 weeks and 6 months postnatal, commencing with mother and baby nursery rhymes and introduction to water exercises.

Following this, our lovely volunteers come in to look after bub while new mums take part in an aqua-aerobics class.

The classes run for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes at the following times:

  • Tuesday 11:00am
  • Thursday 11:00am

Clinical exercise classes

Clinical Exercise classes are 60 minute sessions run by physiotherapists.

Each client receives a tailored program at every session which uses a variety of equipment, including Pilates equipment and gym equipment.

These classes are run at a variety of times throughout the week.

If you are interested in attending, please call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 to book in your clinical exercise assessment, or speak to your pelvic health physiotherapist at your 6 week check.

↑ Back to top

Perineal care

The perineum is the skin and muscle between the vagina and the anus, and is under stretch when baby is born.

Some women who have a vaginal delivery will need stitches to repair their perineum after childbirth, either from a tear or an episiotomy.

How do you take care of your stitches?

  • Showering daily and after bowel motions
  • Patting (rather than wiping) dry, with a towel after showering or toilet paper after emptying your bladder
  • Changing your maternity pads every 2-3 hours
  • Support your stitches by wrapping your hand in toilet paper and applying pressure to your perineum during bowel motions

What should you avoid in the first six weeks?

  • Direct soap, cream or powder onto the stitches
  • Baths
  • Tampons
  • Sexual intercourse

How can you manage the pain and swelling from stitches?

  • Rest – Lie flat on your back or side every few hours and avoid sitting for long periods
  • Ice – Freeze a maternity pad with water and place between two pairs of underwear for 10 minutes. You can repeat this every two hours
  • Compression – Wear a double pad and firm fitting underwear
  • Pain relief – Take paracetamol tablets as directed
  • Pelvic floor – Regular, gentle pelvic floor squeezes (not holds) can help to resolve swelling through the muscle pump mechanism
  • Therapeutic ultrasound – A treatment done by your women’s health physiotherapist that can decrease pain and swelling in the early stages of healing.
  • Laser A treatment done by your women’s health physiotherapist that can decrease pain and speed up the healing process in the later stages of healing.

What should you watch for?

  • An increase in pain after pain has improved
  • An increase in bleeding
  • Smelly discharge
  • Bladder discomfort or burning when emptying your bladder
  • Report to your midwife or obstetrician if you notice any of these
  • It is useful to use a hand mirror to check your stitches so that you can notice any changes in their healing. This can also make you feel more comfortable with the healing process

Your perineum usually heals in two to three weeks and can be checked by your obstetrician at your six week check if you have any concerns.

You can request a visit in hospital or book an in-clinic appointment with your Southcare women’s health physiotherapist for ultrasound or laser treatment of your perineum.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your appointment online today.

↑ Back to top

Caesarean care

A Caesarean is major abdominal surgery and it may take your body 6-12 weeks to heal completely.

What should you do in hospital?

Deep breathing

  • Deep breathing helps to reduce the side effects of anaesthesia
  • Sit upright in bed, knees bent, feet on the bed. Place one hand on your abdomen above the navel
  • Breathe out gently, then take a slow deep breath getting in as much air as possible. Relax and gently breathe out
  • Aim for 5 deep breaths per waking hour

Ankle pumps

  • Ankle pumps help to improve circulation
  • Move feet up, down and in circular motions briskly at the ankles at least ten times per hour


  • Coughing places stress on your abdomen and pelvic floor muscles, it is better to huff to clear phlegm from your lungs
  • Take a medium breath in and then force the air out through a rounded mouth as if you are fogging up a mirror

Supported cough

  • If you need to cough, sneeze or laugh hold your abdomen gently with a hand or place a rolled up towel gently over the area.

What should you avoid in the first six weeks?

Heavy lifting

  • Try not to lift anything heavier than baby
  • Be particularly careful with prams, capsules, loads of washing, and food shopping

Strenuous activity

  • This includes mopping and vacuuming as this strains the abdominals


  • You are required to avoid driving until you have medical clearance from your obstetrician. If you have an accident before this time you may not be covered by your insurance

How should you get out of bed in the first six weeks?

  • Bend your knees up and roll onto your side. Keep your knees together and pulled up towards your chest
  • As you push up with your hands to a sitting position, swing your legs down over the side of the bed
  • A hand or rolled up towel can be gently held against the incision

Your women’s health physiotherapist can check your Caesarean scar at your postnatal assessment and give you advice to help decrease scar tissue.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your postnatal assessment online today.

↑ Back to top

Breast care

Milk in your breast is carried from your mammary glands to the nipple by breast ducts.

Poor emptying of the ducts or pressure on the ducts can cause the duct to become blocked.

A lump will form as the milk builds up behind the blocked duct, your breast may feel hard and sore in one area, and may look red.

If you develop fever or flu-like symptoms you may have mastitis, an inflammation of the breast tissue that may progress to infection.

It is very important that you see a GP as soon as possible if you believe you have mastitis, as you may need antibiotics.

What can you do to prevent blocked ducts and mastitis?

  • Ensure correct attachment with your lactation consultant
  • Breast feed frequently and don’t miss or delay feeds
  • Offer both breasts for each feed, if second breast not taken offer first next time
  • Wake baby for a feed if your breasts become too full
  • If your breast becomes uncomfortably full and your baby is not interested in feeding, express a small amount of milk for comfort.
  • Avoid tight tops or bras, or anything that compresses the breasts
  • Check your breast shield flange size if you are using a breast pump

What can you do to treat blocked ducts and mastitis?

  • Get attachment and feeding assessed by an IBCLC lactation consultant
  • Continue breastfeeding or expressing frequently from both breasts, particularly the affected breast, and offer the affected breast first
  • Change feeding positions to help empty the breast completely
  • A cool pack between and before feeds can help reduce inflammation and allow better milk clearance
  • Gentle massage towards the armpit between and before feeds can help reduce inflammation and excess fluid
  • A warm pack directly before a feed can help milk flow before feeding or expressing
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with pain and inflammation and is safe to take while breastfeeding
  • Drink plenty of water and rest as much as you can. Ask your partner, family, or friends for help with household tasks
  • If you have any fever or flu-like symptoms, you should see your doctor or an after-hours GP as soon as possible. If antibiotics are prescribed by your doctor, take as directed.
  • Therapeutic ultrasound, a treatment done by your pelvic health physiotherapist that can decrease pain and speed up the healing process of blocked ducts or mastitis.

You can book an appointment with your women’s health physiotherapist for ultrasound treatment of your blocked ducts or mastitis.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your appointment online today.

↑ Back to top

Nipple care

It is expected that your nipples will feel sensitive or tender in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, however sore, painful, grazed or cracked nipples are not normal, and breastfeeding should not hurt.

It is important to see a lactational consultant to identify the cause of grazed or cracked nipples so that it can be fixed, as they will usually improve quickly.

Causes may include:

  • Poor positioning or attachment
  • Skin infection or dermatitis
  • Tongue-tie in your baby
  • Incorrect use of breast pumps

What can you do to improve nipple pain?

Before feeds

  • Look for early feeding cues (e.g. hands to mouth, open mouth, sticking tongue out) to offer a feed before your baby starts crying
  • Offer the less sore side first
  • To ensure your baby will be gentler on your nipples, start your milk flowing by gently massaging your breasts and applying warmth. Express a small amount of milk before feeding to lubricate the nipple, soften the areola, and stimulate let down before attaching.

During feeds

  • Get attachment and feeding position assessed by an IBCLC lactation consultant
  • Ensure your breast shield flange if the right size for your nipple and keep pump suction pressures to a comfortable range (there should be no blanching or pinching of the nipple)
  • Before removing your baby from your breast, insert a clean finger into the corner of baby’s mouth to gently break suction

After feeds

  • Allow your nipples to dry before closing your bra
  • Apply purified lanolin or hydrogel dressings after feeds
  • Other recommendations include applying breast milk onto the nipple, ‘airing out’ the nipples, and brief exposure to sunlight at times of low UV
  • To stop clothes rubbing, use breast shells or nipple protectors
  • Change nursing pads frequently, switch to cotton or bamboo rather than disposable if any signs of irritation
  • Avoid products or materials that will dry or damage your nipple skin (e.g. soap, shampoo, rough towels)


A pain free treatment done by your women’s health physiotherapist that can decrease pain and speed up healing.

You can request a visit in hospital or book an in clinic appointment with your women’s health physiotherapist for laser treatment of your nipples.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your appointment online today.

↑ Back to top

Pelvic floor muscles

What are the pelvic floor muscles?

The pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscle and tissue.

The muscles attach at the front of the pelvis at the pubic bone and finish at the back at the tail bone, making a hammock or sling.

What do they do?

The pelvic floor muscles have four main functions:

  • Support of the pelvic organs (the bladder, uterus and bowel)
  • Control of the bladder and bowel
  • Improve vaginal tone to help with sexual enjoyment
  • Support the back by working with the abdominal muscles

What makes the pelvic floor muscles weak?

  • Inactivity of the pelvic floor
  • Pregnancy
  • Constipation
  • Heavy lifting
  • Chronic coughing
  • Ageing

What are the signs of a weak pelvic floor?

  • Accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
  • Not making it to the toilet in time
  • Difficulty controlling wind
  • Prolapse symptoms (this may be felt as bulging into the vagina, heaviness or discomfort, or a feeling of pulling, dragging or dropping down)
  • Lack of sexual sensation

What are the signs of a tight pelvic floor?

It is important to relax your pelvic floor muscles when they are not under load, they should not be held tight all day.

You should not have any pain with sexual intercourse or vaginal examinations (this may indicate your pelvic floor is not relaxing).

What can happen when the pelvic floor muscles are weak?

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence or leakage can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are weak.

The two most common types are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence is the leaking of small amounts of urine during activities that increase pressure inside the abdomen and push down on the bladder (examples: coughing, laughing, and sneezing).
  • Urge incontinence is a sudden and strong need to urinate that stops you making it to the toilet.


Feelings of heaviness or dragging are common after vaginal delivery and indicate your pelvic floor is still recovering.

It is important to give your body lots of rest when these symptoms occur by lying down regularly throughout the day.

When to start pelvic floor muscle exercises?

Begin your pelvic floor exercises within 24 hours after delivery even if you have stitches and/or swelling.

The gentle muscle pumping action will improve the circulation and reduces the swelling which helps with healing.

If you have a catheter in, then you should wait until your catheter has been removed to start pelvic floor exercises.

How do you do pelvic floor muscle exercises?

  • Squeeze and lift the muscles around your back passage, vagina and front passage and then fully relax the muscles.
  • Complete 10 repetitions of these exercises every time your baby feeds (6-8 times per day).
  • The aim in the first six weeks postnatally is to focus on the sensation and control of the pelvic floor muscles. Ensure you contract and relax the muscles without holding and at a comfortable pace.

Your women’s health physiotherapist will check your pelvic floor at your postnatal assessment with our real time ultrasound machine and provide a specific exercise program.

A vaginal examination may also be recommended.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your appointment online today.

↑ Back to top

Bladder and bowel

Good bladder habits

  • Drink at least 2 litres of fluid a day (2.5L-3L if you are producing breast milk), ensuring your urine is a light straw colour (this is a sign of adequate hydration)
  • Caffeine, alcohol, soft drinks and artificially sweetened drinks should be minimal (only one third of your fluid intake)
  • Go to the toilet when your bladder feels full, not ‘just in case’
  • Normal frequency for urinating is 4-8 times in 24 hours with a volume of 250-400ml during the day and 400-600ml at night

Good bowel habits

  • Normal frequency is from 3 times a day, to once every 3 days
  • Never defer a bowel motion, if you feel the urge to go respond immediately or as soon as possible
  • Do not strain to empty your bowels
  • Passing a stool should not be painful, it should be a well formed stool, a smooth and cohesive paste that is easy to pass

This position helps to relax the pelvic floor and sphincters, to help with ease of toileting: 

  • Sit leaning forward with a flat back
  • Feet flat on a small stool
  • Abdomen relaxed and ‘floppy’
  • Sit supported on the seat
  • Elbows resting on the knees
  • Relaxed breathing

Your women’s health physiotherapist will screen you for bladder and bowel problems at your postnatal assessment.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your postnatal assessment online today.

↑ Back to top

Rectus abdominis diastasis

What is it?

Rectus abdominis diastasis (RAD) is the stretching of the linea alba ligament causing the separation of the two rectus abdominis muscle bellies.

It is a common condition that develops during pregnancy due to the growing baby.

How do you look after your abdominal muscles?

Natural resolution of RAD generally will occur in the first 8 weeks after delivery.

To aid in the natural resolution it is advised to avoid over-using the abdominal muscles and to avoid heavy lifting.

Compression bandages or compression wear can aid in this natural healing process.

If it is still present after 8 weeks, specific exercises are required to assist with resolution of your RAD.

Getting in and out of bed:

  • Roll onto your side and push up onto your elbow
  • Slowly lower your legs to the ground while pushing up on hand

Your women’s health physiotherapist will check your RAD at your postnatal assessment and can provide exercises to assist with resolution.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your appointment online today.

↑ Back to top

Caring for your body

The postnatal period is a time that can be challenging for the body, as it involves new movements (e.g. feeding, carrying lifting) that are repeated multiple times per day with the added weight of your baby.

Most musculoskeletal issues do not go away by themselves and will need the correct assessment, diagnosis, and advice on management.

Common areas of postnatal pain that can be helped with physiotherapy:

  • Neck pain
  • Upper back, rib and shoulder pain
  • Lower back and hip/pelvis pain
  • Wrist pain

Before baby, such issues are easily managed as you are able to rest from most tasks for recovery.

Postnatally, your baby needs you to take care of them, even if the tasks are those that are causing problems. That’s why it is important to have these issues managed as soon as possible.

Common tasks that contribute to postnatal pain:

  • Feeding (whether breast feeding or bottle feeding)
  • Carrying and settling baby
  • Lifting baby from capsules, car seats, prams, change tables, cots, and bassinets
  • Bathing baby

What can you do to prevent postnatal pain?

  • Good posture is the position that puts the least load on your body, not necessarily sitting or standing straight
  • When settling baby, a variety of movements and positions will help to distribute the load. This might include carrying, baby wearing, and bouncing on a fit ball
  • Ensure your back, feet, and arms are always supported during feeding. You should be able to relax and maintain good posture
  • When lifting, keep neutral spine, use your legs as much as possible, and keep baby as close to your body as you can

Your women’s health physiotherapist can assess you for musculoskeletal problems at your postnatal check, and provide treatment, exercises, and advice.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your postnatal assessment online today.

↑ Back to top

Exercises for spinal mobility

Animal stretches on hands and knees

Hold each stretch for 20 seconds.


Arch your back so that your bottom tucks towards the floor, then come back to neutral.


Bring your hips around to one side and turn your head to the same side so that you can see your hips.


Open one arm up to the ceiling and then take the arm between opposite arm and leg.

Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor

Pelvic tilts

Tilt your pelvis so that your lower back flattens into the bed/floor and then come back to neutral.

Knee rolls

Keep the knees together and rock them side to side while keeping your shoulders flat on the mat.

You can also do this with legs draped over a fit ball.

↑ Back to top

General exercise recommendations

Remember, the below time periods are guidelines only.

You should not have any vaginal heaviness, abdominal pain, or bladder leakage during exercise at any time.

Return to exercise is very individual and based on your exercise experience, as well as your body and genetics.

0-6 weeks

It is recommended you wait until your obstetrician’s postnatal check and physiotherapy postnatal assessment before starting any further exercise.

6-12 weeks

Exercise may include

  • Postnatal hydrotherapy and clinical exercise classes (available at Southcare Physiotherapy)
  • Low impact cardio (e.g. swimming, cycling, or elliptical)
  • Light weights or body weight movements

Exercise to avoid

  • High impact movements – running, jumping, skipping etc.
  • Heavy lifting – If you have to hold your breath, the weight is too heavy
  • Abdominal exercises – sit ups, leg lowers, planks (including full push ups)

3-9 months

  • Most mothers achieve clearance from their women’s health physiotherapist at 3-9 months for high impact, heavy lifting, and abdominal exercises
  • This is based on your bladder, bowel, pelvic floor, and musculoskeletal results from your postnatal assessment

Your women’s health physiotherapist will provide you with a specific return to exercise program at your postnatal assessment.

Call Southcare Physiotherapy on (08) 6332 6666 or book your postnatal assessment online today.

↑ Back to top

Physiotherapy for new-born babies

Right from birth, the way that we position, carry and interact with our babies can make a difference to their development.

What is torticollis?

  • Torticollis is the tightening of the muscles on one side of the neck
  • Baby may be born with this asymmetry due to their position in the womb or the way they were delivered
  • Baby may develop this after birth, as baby’s head turning control is poor and they may only turn the on direction

What is plagiocephaly?

  • Plagiocephaly is a flattening of the baby’s head on one side
  • Caused by the large proportion of time baby is on their back
  • Does not negatively affect baby’s brain development, but may affect their ability to move their head and explore

What can you do to prevent asymmetry of baby’s neck and head?

  • Place baby the opposite way in the cot at each sleep, so what they look at is on a different side each time
  • Be aware of how you and baby’s other caregivers hold him or her, and regularly swap the side you are holding them
  • Tummy time limits the pressure on the back of the head, and helps baby develop strength in their muscles
  • Use toys with contrasting patterns and faces to move baby’s attention to the non-preferred side

Southcare Physiotherapy has a paediatric physiotherapist available for appointments if you are worried about baby’s development.

↑ Back to top

Postnatal depression

What is postnatal depression (PND)?

Having a baby can be an exciting time, full of intense emotions.

Some emotions may be good, while others are more challenging.

PND is depression occurring in the months following childbirth.

Research shows around one in seven mothers and around one in ten fathers will experience PND, but mild to moderate cases are sometimes not recognised by the individual themselves.

What are the signs and symptoms of PND?

The experience of PND can vary from person to person, but usually includes several of the following:


  • Shame, guilt, failure, inadequacy or hopelessness
  • Tearfulness, persistent low mood, confusion and exhaustion


  • Lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • Withdrawal from social contact
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor self-care and inability to cope with daily routine
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Not eating or over-eating


  • Fear of being rejected by partner or baby
  • Worry about harm or death to partner or baby
  • Lack of concentration and poor memory
  • Wanting to run away or escape
  • Inability to think clearly or make decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Treatment options

There are several treatment and support options for parents experienced PND.

These might include things like practical support at home, lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise), counselling, and medication.

For more information visit

If you suspect you or someone you care about is suffering from PND it is recommended to seek help from a health professional like your GP, obstetrician, or child health nurse.

Elements of this excerpt were originally created by the WA Dept. of Health

↑ Back to top

We’re here
to help:
Start your
journey by
finding your
nearest clinic.