baby being born
Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge
Labour and Birth

What happens after birth

During your pregnancy, you’ve probably spent quite a bit of time thinking about labour and what will happen when your baby is born. But you might not know what to expect after your labour has finished and your newborn is safely in your arms.

When your baby is born, the midwife will usually lift them straight onto you unless there is a medical reason why this isn’t possible. This allows you to meet your baby and enjoy some skin to skin contact straight away, which is great for bonding.  

Your newborn will probably have some blood on them and may also be covered in a waxy white substance known as vernix, which helps protect their skin when they are in the womb.

If you prefer, you can ask your midwife to dry your baby and wrap them up in a blanket or towel before holding them. Otherwise, your midwife will let you have a little cuddle before drying them off.

It is generally considered routine practice now for your baby to have what is known as Delayed Cord Clamping.  This just allows for a short period of time to pass - usually 2 or 3 minutes - before your baby’s cord is clamped and cut.  Once this time has passed the midwife will ask your birth partner if they want to cut the cord – this is completely optional. Do not feel you have to do it if they would prefer not to.

Do I need to give birth to the placenta?

Shortly after the arrival of your baby you are likely to start to experience contractions again.  These will be much milder that the ones that brought you your baby but they are happening for a reason.  The delivery of your placenta - known as the third stage of labour. There are three ways that the delivery of your placenta takes place.  

The most common is what is known as an active third stage.

You will be offered an oxytocin injection to help stimulate your contractions and speed up the delivery of the placenta. Once your placenta has come out, it will be examined by the midwife to ensure it is complete and nothing has been left behind.

Then there is a physiological third stage

This method allows the placenta to birth without any intervention.  This can carry a slightly increased risk of bleeding and can take longer.  A physiological third stage would more likely be considered if you have had a straight forward labour and birth.  If you are at an increase risk of bleeding for any reason you midwife and doctor are likely to recommend that you have the injection.

Repair to your perineum

If you have had an episiotomy or you have torn during the birth, you may need stitches. These will usually be done by the midwife in the delivery room unless it is a serious tear which needs surgery.

If you had an epidural, this will be topped up while the stitches are carried out. Otherwise, a local anaesthetic will be used to numb the skin and you may be offered gas and air.

The majority of perineal repairs are carried out in your labour room or at home by the midwife that looked after you.  However, if your tear is more complex you may need to go to theatre where a doctor will perform the stitching.

The Baby Check

Your baby will then be examined by your midwife and they will record their weight and length. A band will then be put on their ankle which will include your name and details.  This is important so that we keep the right baby with the right mum!

During your pregnancy, your midwife should have talked to you about vitamin K injections. These are offered to newborns to help prevent a rare bleeding disorder and you will be asked whether you consent to your baby being given a shot of vitamin K.

You can also choose for them to have an oral dose of vitamin K instead but they will need additional doses of this.

What if my baby needs extra help?

Your baby might need some additional care after birth. Some babies need a little bit of help with their breathing when they are first born and medical professionals may need to clear some mucus out of their nose and mouth.

In some circumstances, it might be necessary to take your baby to a different part of the delivery room to give them oxygen. Or your baby might need to be taken to a neonatal unit for some special care.

If this happens, your baby will be returned to you as quickly as possible or you will be given information about what will happen next and how you can visit them.

What happens after a c-section?

If your baby is delivered by caesarean section, you will be usually be shown your baby as soon as they are born and they will be brought over to you. You may also be able to have skin to skin with your newborn while you are still in the operating theatre.

After the procedure is complete, you will be taken to a recovery room and medical staff will check on you and keep you under observation for the first few hours after your section. You will be offered medication to manage the pain and your medical team will talk to you about how to reduce the risk of blood clots. You may need to have injections and/or wear compression stockings while you recover.

You will have a catheter in your bladder and this will remain in place for around 12 to 18 hours until you are able to walk around safely and go to the toilet yourself.

How will I feel after giving birth?

You will need time to rest and recover after you have given birth. You may experience stomach cramps which feel like contractions. This is normal and is your uterus contracting so it can return to a normal size.

The after-birth pains are usually more intense while you are breastfeeding or if you have had children before.

You are likely to feel very tired and sore and you will experience bleeding like a heavy period so make sure you have plenty of maternity pads and change them regularly. If you are concerned about anything, speak to your midwife.

Postnatal Ward

You will usually stay in the delivery room for a short time after the birth before moving to the postnatal ward. If you have decided you want to breastfeed, your midwife will usually help you to feed your baby within an hour of birth if that is practical.

Your midwife or a maternity support worker will also help you to freshen up before you leave the delivery room if you are a little unsteady on your feet.

When will I be able to go home after giving birth?

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to go home between six and 24 hours after giving birth. You may need to stay longer if there are any medical complications – for you or your baby, you need support with breastfeeding or you have had a c-section.

Your hospital will have its own policy on how quickly it discharges new mums and babies and you will only be sent home when the health professionals are happy with how you and your baby are doing.

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