When you’re pregnant, there’s so much focus on the birth and how the baby is going to come out – vaginal delivery, c-section or water birth? But once bub is here, what happens to YOU straight after? We have all the details.
The first thing that generally happens after a vaginal birth is that your baby is brought up and placed on your chest so you can meet her and have some skin-to-skin contact (also known as kangaroo care). This is not only a chance for you both to bond, but your baby will also get used to your smell while coming into contact with your skin microbes (tiny bacterial cells) which can help establish her immune system.
The next order of events is to deliver your placenta (if you haven’t already done so). Your baby will be taken by a midwife or your partner to have her umbilical cord cut, be weighed and cleaned up while you get to work. Don’t worry though, pushing out the placenta (also called the afterbirth) is usually A LOT faster than a baby, and can sometimes only take minutes. This is an incredibly important step though, as medical complications can arise if the placenta is not delivered or removed post-birth.
The stitch up
Next, it’s time to repair “down there.” To be clear, not all women require a lot of attention in this area. Some experience only minor grazes or tears which are generally left alone, as they will heal better this way. However, if you did have a large tear or an episiotomy was performed (surgical incision to assist with delivery), then you will need stitches. If you didn’t have an epidural during labour, you’ll be offered some pain relief now. And depending on the situation, you may be allowed to cuddle your baby while you are stitched up. Your pulse, blood pressure, vaginal blood loss and firmness of the top of your uterus (fundus) will likely be monitored.
Read more about birth and labour:
- Conquer the fear: What all pregnant women need to know about labour and birth
- Push it real good: When should women start pushing during labour?
- The best labour positions you need to know about before it’s time to push
Now it’s feeding time
Not you, the baby! If you’re famished, I’m sure someone will fetch you something to eat. As for your little one, if you’re planning to breastfeed, the midwives will help place her on one of your breasts and encourage feeding. At this point, you won’t have milk, but instead, something called colostrum, a thick, early form of milk full of nutrients for your baby, which also helps to establish her digestive system. If your baby is having trouble latching on to your nipples, the midwife may assist you in hand expressing your colostrum into a syringe for feeding. Don’t be surprised if you feel pain in your uterus and experience bleeding from your vagina (called lochia) when breastfeeding, this is normal and is a sign that your uterus is shrinking back to size.
The hospital room
If you’re not already out of the birthing suite, you’ll be wheeled into your hospital room where you and the baby will have more checks, injections, rest, food, visitors and more throughout your stay.
Congrats, the hard part is over, but your motherhood journey has only just begun!
What about with a c-section?
If you had a caesarean operation (whether it’s elective or emergency), some of the processes right after birth are a bit different from vaginal. For example, you won’t be aware when the placenta is removed, and you will need to wait a little while for the doctor to sew your uterus and abdominal back up. While your baby will be placed on your chest, she will be taken away while the operation finishes up. Some people also choose to have vaginal seeding done (where bacteria from their vagina is wiped on the baby via a swab). Once the operation is over and you’re in your room, you can have some skin-to-skin contact in with bub, and start breastfeeding just like with a vaginal birth. Hooray!
Please note that all births are unique so in some instances, the order of events may be different depending on the mother, baby, birthing preferences and medical staff involved.