not everybody loves the postnatal ward

The Postnatal Ward. Rate it or Hate it?

The Postnatal Ward

“…completely chaotic, noisy and overcrowded. I couldn’t wait to get out.”

The postnatal ward is bit of a marmite place, some rate it whilst others hate it.  For those anticipating a night or two on the Postnatal Ward sometime soon, here’s the lowdown on how it works; what you can expect and some top tips for making your stay as comfortable as possible.  Plus one heart-warming story to finish!

When you and your baby are stable you will be transferred to the postnatal ward. On the NHS you can most likely expect to be sharing with three to five other mothers and babies and their families. This might come as a bit of a shock if you have not shared a room with a stranger before!  Some hospitals have private rooms (and some at an additional cost) and some facilities for your partner to stay but most do not. Chat to your midwife in advance and find out if they will let your partner stay.  It’s better to be prepared!

Common complaints about postnatal wards are that they are noisy, with babies crying, loud conversations, other people’s visitors and they are very warm! Therefore we recommend packing some earplugs and light bed clothes in your hospital bag.  Other essentials for the maternity ward include:

  • Toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturiser, toothpaste, toothbrush
  • 2-3 nighties with straps or buttons down the front for breastfeeding (if you are planning to breastfeed).
  • The MOTHER OF ALL PANTS – Also known as J Cloth Pants, disposable knickers or black knickers – BIG ones!
  • Maternity Sanitary Towels – We highly recommend Natracare. Many of the supermarkets and chemists do their own brand but they are often uncomfortable and plastic which can make you feel even more sweaty and sticky then you already do!
  • Flip flops or slippers for trips to the loo – the floors can be a little skanky at times!
  • Cash for food and drinks.
  • An iPad and charger.

Sometimes the maternity wards can be extremely busy and a little bit chaotic and most women say that they are pleased to get out as soon as possible. They are however a secure environment where mothers and babies can sleep and rest and concentrate on recovering from childbirth. There should be lots of help with getting the baby on the breast if you are choosing to breastfeed too. If you chose not to breastfeed then you may have to bring some bottles and pre-mixed formula as not all hospitals supply these. You can ask your midwife about this.

The stories we have heard from mums do vary vastly from the exemplary to those which cannot be described as anything other than a nightmare.  One mum even told how two women had to be separated from a physical fight!  But whilst it might not feel like it at times during your stay on the postnatal ward please believe us when we say, you are in the best place for you and your baby!  

Here’s our top tips for surviving your stay!

  • Be prepared.  Don’t expect the Hilton! It is hot, it is loud and it is likely that you will be woken at 7am by babies crying, women talking (sometimes on their mobile phones!) and breakfast being served!  Remember this is a temporary stay, you are not moving in!
  • The midwives will likely be stretched and you may need to be pushy to be heard!  If your baby is not latching on, ask that they are checked for tongue tie. If you are struggling with breastfeeding or want to be shown how to hand express then ask, ask and ask again.  And if you are feeling unwell, experiencing what appears to be an abnormal amount of bleeding or have any other cause for concern do speak up – loudly if you have to!  Yours and your baby’s health are paramount!
  • Similarly, if you do get a curt response, try not to take it to heart (not easy when you are feeling tired and sensitive we know).
  • Please don’t discharge yourself early even if you are having an awful time.  The doctors and midwives do know what they are doing and it is important to that you and your baby receive all of the necessary checks and care before going home.
  • Make the most of your labour suite before you are shipped off to the noisy ward!  Even better, if you can get a private room, do.  But be warned this is a long shot!
  • You might feel lonely and scared – perhaps it’s your first baby or you experienced a difficult labour.  Try reaching out to the other mums on your ward.  Just talking can really help and you won’t feel so alone.  They are in exactly the same boat as you.
  • You will be exhausted, and emotional and perhaps even in a state of shock, but one mum’s advice was to try to keep your chin up and use your visitors when they are there to have a rest.


For all the negative experiences there are lots of positive ones too, as evidenced by one of our mums.

“After a traumatic birth me and my baby had a serious infection from going four days with waters ruptured to labour starting (didn’t realise this had happened).  We had to stay in for a minimum of five days.  My baby became seriously ill with her infection and had to be taken out of my room and ward and up to NICU.  I was a first time mum who felt seriously poorly with an infection and I also felt like I’d been hit repeatedly by a train in the vajayjay/bum region (thanks episiotomy!) and hormones were wild.  I can honestly say with hand on my heart the midwives, nurses, cleaners and catering staff were absolutely bloody brilliant.  I felt so cared and nurtured for.  And I know this sounds stupid but I lost my mum almost six years ago and it felt like the same kind of loving care a mother would give you.  I didn’t realise how much I’d missed that until I had my baby.  After six days and nights in hospital they finally let us go, healthy and ready for our next adventure.  I cried in the lift on the way out because I was scared I couldn’t do it without the women who had cared for me.  Thank you to all the staff who looked after me and my baby.  You deserve the world because you gave me mine.”

If you want to read more about the Postnatal Ward and other important Postnatal issues, then please do come and take our Antenatal Course



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