Moms-to-be can be very focused on delivery. But what happens in the minutes after Baby is born? What to expect in the next few minutes and hours after delivering.
Congratulations—your due date is rapidly approaching! While you’ve done the appropriate research and taken the classes to prepare yourself for the delivery of your child, you may not be as prepared for all that occurs after your baby is born. Here are some things to keep in mind as your d-day approaches.
First is a pre-delivery tidbit. As a laboring mom gets closer to delivering, her room fills up with people. A nurse will tend to the mom’s care, and another will be ready for the baby. A doctor will be there, and usually a tech who will assist the doctor. Keeping in mind how many hospital staff will be working in the room, you’ll need to decide what family and friends you want to be with you. Great options are your baby’s father and maybe your mom or sister, but don’t feel pressured to invite a crowd—the room will feel plenty full!
Once your baby is delivered, he or she will be placed on your chest, assuming everything with Baby is routine. The nurse will listen to your baby’s heart and lungs and take a temperature. Keeping Baby warm is important, so oftentimes a nurse will place a hat on the infant’s head. Make sure to have a camera close by, because you will want pictures of these first moments. While the nursery nurse is watching your baby, the doctor will be waiting for the placenta to be delivered. The placenta is much smaller than the baby and has no bone, so it is expelled from the uterus with little to no difficulty. It can produce intense cramping until it is delivered. While waiting for the placenta (a few minutes up to one hour), the doctor also will assess your perineum and vagina for tearing and start stitching if necessary. Baby will continue to be skin-to-skin with you as long as you both are in a condition to allow it.
Once the doctor has delivered the placenta, you will receive a medication called oxytocin/Pitocin through an IV. This medication helps the uterus to contract and controls the amount of vaginal bleeding. The nurse or doctor also will massage the uterus externally to make sure bleeding is controlled. The doctor will finish any repair if needed, and the epidural, if one was given, will be turned off. Keep in mind that if you did have an epidural, the complete return of feeling to your legs and feet may take a couple of hours. Your perineum will be cleaned off with warm soapy water, and a pad will be placed under you. Your nurse will return your labor bed to normal and place a blanket over you. Many new moms get the shakes after delivery, usually not because of being cold but from the release of hormones. Ask your nurse for a warm blanket—that will help a lot.
Not only does a lot go on with Mom immediately after the delivery, a lot happens with Baby as well. Within the first hour after delivery, the baby will have his vitals taken multiple times to make sure he’s adjusting to life outside the uterus. If nurses or doctor have any concerns with how he is transitioning, Baby will be taken to the warmer located in the delivery room. Less commonly, if there are more emergent concerns, Baby may be taken into the nursery for evaluation. The nurse will administer a vitamin K shot to the baby, which will help with clotting in the blood. Baby also will receive an ointment in his eyes to protect from any potential infection. This ointment doesn’t hurt the baby, and they can see, even after it’s applied. Baby also will be weighed and have his length and head circumference measurements taken.
Finally, once a mom and baby are ready, the first feeding takes place, usually within the first hour. Before the birth, be sure to decide whether you will breastfeed or what formula you will use if you choose to bottle feed. This first feeding sometimes can be a little difficult, especially if you are still unable to move much in bed. Your nurse can help with positioning. Sometime after this first feeding, your baby will be able to receive her first bath and be dressed in any clothes you want her in.
After a long day of nothing but ice chips, you’ll likely be ready for a snack or something to drink besides water. Oftentimes, the hospital will be able to get you juice, milk or crackers. If mealtime has arrived, you may have a meal tray waiting for you. Some moms prefer to send a family member out to pick up dinner for them.
Remember the uterine massage mentioned earlier? This massage (not a delightful spa-like experience) is going to happen often for the first couple of hours after delivery. While not the most comfortable activity, the procedure is so important to limit the amount of bleeding. Typically two to three hours after delivery, the epidural has worn off enough that you can get up and go to the bathroom. In the bathroom, you will get cleaned up and changed into a new gown. At this point you may be transitioned to a different room, depending on the hospital you choose for your delivery.
This special time goes by so quickly. Enjoy all the moments and ask your health care providers if you have any questions or requests!
Have your camera ready because you’ll want to document all these first moments:
- Baby placed on Mom’s chest for the first time
- Dad’s cutting the umbilical cord
- The first look with eyes open
- Weight on the scale
- Baby’s first bath
- Baby’s first cries after delivery
- First picture of Mom, Dad and Baby
- Baby on the warmer
- Feet with the black ink from measurements
- The first outfit
Jessica Heine is a labor and delivery nurse. She lives in Olathe with her family.
As always please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.