Background: Postnatal care is uncommon in Nepal, and where it is available the quality is often poor. Adequate utilisation of postnatal care can help reduce mortality and morbidity among mothers and their babies. Therefore, our study assessed the utilisation of postnatal care at a rural community level. Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional study was carried out in two neighbouring villages in early 2006. A total of 150 women who had delivered in the previous 24 months were asked to participate in the study using a semi-structured questionnaire. Results: The proportion of women who had received postnatal care after delivery was low (34%). Less than one in five women (19%) received care within 48 hours of giving birth. Women in one village had less access to postnatal care than women in the neighbouring one. Lack of awareness was the main barrier to the utilisation of postnatal care. The woman's own occupation and ethnicity, the number of pregnancies and children and the husband's socio-economic status, occupation and education were significantly associated with the utilisation of postnatal care. Multivariate analysis showed that wealth as reflected in occupation and having attended antenatal are important factors associated with the uptake of postnatal care. In addition, women experiencing health problems appear strongly motivated to seek postnatal care. Conclusion: The postnatal care has a low uptake and is often regarded as inadequate in Nepal. This is an important message to both service providers and health-policy makers. Therefore, there is an urgent need to assess the actual quality of postnatal care provided. Also there appears to be a need for awareness-raising programmes highlighting the availability of current postnatal care where this is of sufficient quality.