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What is the difference between postpartum and postnatal?

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There are lots of technical terms to learn as a first time mom. Trimester, prenatal, postpartum, postnatal . . .

It may be overwhelming and even confusing at times.

One of the most common questions is whether there is a difference between postpartum and postnatal.

Let’s clear that up today!

Mother holds baby just after birth in hospital.

Is there a difference?

Yes and no!

These words can be used interchangeably in loose terms. You may see postnatal and postpartum treated as synonyms in casual language and outside of a medical setting.

However, technically, there is a difference. The careful usage of these terms or use in a formal setting is actually pretty unique.

These terms in their unique senses, pertain either to the mother or to the baby.


The careful usage of postpartum refers to anything regarding the mother in the post-birth phase such as complications, symptoms, or issues she may experience.

Postpartum is also the term used to designate the time frame between birth and the subsequent, six-week recovery period.


Postnatal specifically refers to the baby and any after-birth care the baby may need.

Postnatal is also typically only used to refer to the period immediately after birth.

Tips for After Birth Care

For a typical, non-emergency delivery, most post-birth care pertains to the mother.

You (and baby) will likely stay in the hospital for 24-48 hours and then be sent home to manage the rest of your recovery on your own.

Your doctor and nurses will give you lots of advice for healing, but you can get even more helpful tips from moms who’ve been there, too!

The best way to care for yourself after birth is to be prepared beforehand!

You’ll want to learn about how your body feels after giving birth, common postpartum body changes, and how to deal with each of these issues well before you go into labor.

This way, you’ll have plenty of time to purchase the postpartum essentials you’ll need and pick items for your baby registry checklist, before you come home from the hospital.

Make your recovery easier by learning all the important things to know about breastfeeding, how to create a newborn sleep schedule, and smart newborn baby hacks.

And once you’re in the hospital, pay attention to the directions from your caretakers and bring home as many supplies as you can!

Here are several more tips for the first time mama, including everything you need to know about pregnancy, baby names, and more!