So, you’ve been carrying the baby for months now.
You may feel pretty comfortable with the hospital, your birth plan, and your breathing technique, but what happens in the hospital after the baby has arrived? What can you expect during your first hours of motherhood — right after the baby has been delivered?
The First 24 Hours After Giving Birth
After childbirth, you’ll spend at least 24 hours in the hospital. This gives the staff time to monitor you and the baby and lets you take care of any necessary paperwork.
Immediately after delivery, whether vaginally or by Cesarean section, your baby will be placed on your bare chest for you to hold. This immediate skin-to-skin contact is your baby’s best introduction to the world, and it offers a variety of health benefits, such as helping regulate body temperature and blood pressure.
1. Cleaning up and assessments after birth
After a few minutes, the medical staff will take your baby to the side for an examination. The baby will be cleaned, weighed, measured, and be given an Apgar score. The Apgar score is done by observing your baby and looking at:
- Heart rate
The score gives an overall idea of how your baby is doing.
During this time, you will deliver the placenta (yes, you’ll have to do a little more pushing), and the doctor or midwife will repair any tears that happened during delivery.
The staff will also take your baby’s footprints and put on ID bands. The baby will receive eye drops to prevent infection, as well as a vitamin K injection to help with blood clotting.
2. Breastfeeding for the first time
Once everyone is cleaned up, you’ll have a chance to breastfeed your baby for the first time, if you choose.
A nurse can help you get situated and help the baby latch on to your breast. Breastfeeding is a learning process for both of you and may not come as naturally as you hope. Don’t hesitate to talk to a lactation consultant while in the hospital to get the most advice you can before going home.
3. Visitors for you and the baby
People can start visiting you and the baby whenever you feel up to it.
Many hospitals now have rooms that allow you to labor, deliver, and recover without being moved. Your baby will stay in a bassinet beside your bed for the length of your stay.
You’ll typically experience bleeding for a few hours after birth. The nurse will help you get comfortable with pain medication if you want it, ice packs for the perineum, maxi pads, and special underwear so you don’t ruin yours. The nurse or your spouse can help you put on clothes, find a comfortable position, and prepare for visitors.
4. Recovery and sleep after giving birth
Babies often sleep when they’re first born — and moms should too.
Take naps when you get the opportunity in the hospital. You’re advised to wake your baby for feedings every two hours, and your nurse will help you find the best way to approach this. Your baby may not eat much at each feeding during the hospital stay.
At some point, you will need to use the bathroom, and you’ll want to shower. If you have an epidural, you’ll need to wait for it to wear off enough that you feel comfortable walking. For some women, it wears off pretty soon after birth. For others, it can last a couple hours.
You lose a lot of blood both during and after delivery, which can cause dizziness. You’ll want to get help going to the bathroom the first time and taking a shower.
Everyone’s childbirth experience is different. You may be exhausted and sore, you may be recovering from a C-section, or you may feel fine. Remember, delivering a baby is exhausting, so take it easy.
5. Other tests and exams
Before you are discharged from the hospital, your child will undergo a heel prick to test for a range of disorders, including phenylketonuria (PKU) and hypothyroidism. The baby will also get the first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine and have a full pediatric exam before discharge. If you have a boy, he can be circumcised before you go home as well, if you choose.
During your stay, you’ll complete paperwork that will eventually become your child’s birth certificate and social security card.
For a vaginal birth with no complications, you’ll be at home within 24 to 48 hours. For an uncomplicated C-section, you’ll likely go home within two to three days. If you have questions after getting home, hospital staff, as well as your doctor and pediatrician, are always available to help.
Visit the Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC webpage for more information.