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Daniel Chodowiecki : The Maternity Room (around 1770)

As postpartum or puerperal is known in humans, the afterbirth ( Latin puerperal , also postpartum ), that is the time from the end of the delivery ( birth ) to the regression of pregnancy and birth-related changes, which typically takes six to eight weeks. During this time the mother recovers from pregnancy and childbirth. Breast milk begins to form in breastfeeding mothers within three to four days instead of the previously produced colostrum . Any birth injuries can heal during the puerperium. A mother in the first few weeks after the birth is referred to as a woman who has recently given birth , previously also a child prayer . The term woman who has recently given birth is derived from the older woman who was six weeks old .

Medical aspects

Within a period of six to eight weeks after the birth of a child, the mother's body has to recover from pregnancy and delivery and make hormonal changes. During pregnancy regression, the uterus and other organs shrink . The adhesion location of the placenta (placenta), a wound in the uterus, heals the secretory week flux ( Lochia ab). Because women need a lot of rest in the puerperium and are sometimes emotionally unstable, this time is also known as baby blues . It is the time to adjust to the new situation and the baby .

The relationship between child and mother arises and develops. Central issues for mother and child in the beginning are mostly getting used to breastfeeding , the sleeping and drinking rhythm of the child and general satisfaction.

During this time, especially in the first ten days known as early puerperium , there is a risk of childbed fever (puerperal fever), a bacterial infection of the uterus and neighboring organs, which can be prevented through increased hygiene . It has symptoms similar to blood poisoning and used to be the cause of many deaths. It was not until 1850 that the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis ( “Savior of Mothers” ), practicing in Vienna, recognized the cause of infections and fought for better hygiene in hospitals and frequent disinfection , especially of the hands of the treating doctors.

In the medical sense, prolonged sexual abstinence may be required.

In the interests of the newborn , particular attention must be paid to hygiene. In particular, infection with the herpes simplex virus can be fatal to the newborn.

The so-called postpartum disorders in addition to the puerperal fever (can puerperal fever ) also Lochialstauungen, chest infections and postpartum psychosis occur.

regional customs

In earlier customs , importance was attached to cleanliness and compassion , but not necessarily to hygiene. In ancient Rome, for example, the broom was given a special meaning, and the midwives swept the threshold of the birth house with a blessed broom in order to keep the newborn and the woman who had recently given birth from bad influences.

In the Middle Ages and early modern times, it was common for the young mother to attend church for the first time six weeks after the birth, especially because churchgoers had to stand during the services, which often lasted several hours, and were given special blessings. This custom of forty days of seclusion comes from Lev 12: 1-8  EU . In Judaism and Islam, for example, women who have recently given birth are regarded as cultically impure on the one hand, and particularly endangered by evil spirits and therefore in need of protection on the other. Orthodox churches still practice this custom today. Connected to the religious custom was a grace period during which the woman was provided with special food by the neighbors and, if possible, should not leave the house. In addition, women who had recently given birth enjoyed special privileges from cities or communities, for example in the imperial city of Nuremberg until 1701 they were given low-cost (tax-exempt) beer to strengthen them . The “child prayer” also enjoyed special legal protection. However, if she died within this period, she was feared as a revenant . But also in other religions that are not based on the Old Testament , the time after birth is surrounded by numerous taboos .

Rights of the woman who has recently given birth

The woman who has recently given birth needs special rest and care, especially in the early morning bed (first to tenth day after the birth). She shouldn't do any physical work, but should concentrate fully on her newborn and herself. Most states have a statutory maternity protection period of six to eight weeks, during which a strict employment ban applies to women who have recently given birth.


In the Federal Republic of Germany there has been an absolute prohibition of employment for mothers in the first eight weeks after giving birth under the Maternity Protection Act since 1952 . The loss of earnings is compensated by the health insurance company , the employer or the family fund , and there is a right to special medical care. In some cases , comparable regulations exist for the time after a miscarriage .

During the period of childbed, every mother has the right to medical and advisory help from a midwife . Their services are paid for by the health insurance company .

In addition to midwife care in Germany has given birth, especially after a home or outpatient birth , the right to assistance by a mothers nurse or a home help . This applies for six days after delivery for a maximum of eight hours a day. This service is also largely paid for by the health insurance companies.

If the mother is in financial distress, she can, for example, receive grants from funds from the Federal Foundation for Mother and Child .


In Switzerland, maternity leave is 14 weeks, during which time there is an obligation to continue paying wages to employed mothers . According to Art. 35 ArG there is a strict employment ban in the first eight weeks; from the 9th to the 16th week, employment may only be resumed with the express consent of the woman who has recently given birth. For breastfeeding mothers - as for pregnant women - there are restrictions on time and physical demands at work.

After giving birth, women who have recently given birth are entitled to follow-up care in Switzerland. In the case of an outpatient birth (discharge from hospital within six hours) or early discharge (return home within three days), there is a right to daily home visits by a freelance midwife up to the tenth day after the birth. The costs of this so-called outpatient childbed are covered by the compulsory basic insurance of the health insurance company, as are those for three consultations on breastfeeding advice.

See also


  • Elsbeth Kneuper: Becoming a mother in Germany. An ethnological study . Forum European Ethnology, Volume 6, Hamburg, 2004.
  • Peter Schneck: Childbed. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1501.

Web links

Wikibooks: The baby book  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. ^ IJ Light: Postnatal acquisition of herpes simplex virus by the newborn infant: a review of the literature . In: Pediatrics . tape 63 , no. 3 , March 1979, p. 480-482 , PMID 440848 (review).
  2. Great Britain: Baby dies from herpes infection. In: Spiegel Online . February 27, 2009, accessed December 9, 2014 .
  3. Example of a blessing ceremony from the ErtzStifftische Magdeburg Church Agenda from 1665
  4. Excerpt from: Sergius Heitz: Mysterium der Adoration III
  5. As an example, customs around the birth in Taksony
  6. ^ Jochen Sprotte: The control system of the Nuremberg council over the medieval brewers and their beers . In: Yearbook of the Society for the History of Brewing e. V. 2018, ISSN  1860-8922 , p. 233-290, here 261-262 .
  7. ↑ Child bed . In: Former Academy of Sciences of the GDR, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences (Hrsg.): German legal dictionary . tape 7 , issue 6 (edited by Günther Dickel , Heino Speer, with the assistance of Renate Ahlheim, Richard Schröder, Christina Kimmel, Hans Blesken). Hermann Böhlaus successor, Weimar 1979, OCLC 718486457 ( adw.uni-heidelberg.de ).
  8. Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde , Volume 33 (2006), p. 601
  9. ^ Federal law on income compensation for service providers and maternity
  10. Swiss Labor Law. Confederation (federal law on work in industry, trade and commerce): Health protection in the event of maternity