What Happens After Labour?

The 9 long months of pregnancy end in a few short hours as labour kicks in and, a relatively short while later, your baby or babies are born. This article discusses what it is you can expect after you have finally given birth to your child, both in terms of your body and feelings and your baby’s.

Babies after birth

What happens to babies straight after birth depends on a number of things. In instances where baby’s are in need of special care, if they suffer from a disease diagnosed prior to birth for example, of if they are born prematurely, then arrangements will be made for the transport and care of your baby to and in a specialist neo-natal care facility. Modern neo-natal care is extremely effective and so these facilities usually do wonders for monitoring and ensuring your baby’s health.

Where babies are born without any illnesses or major health concerns, there are still some steps taken straight after birth to ensure your child’s safety and health. Once your baby is born, the umbilical cord, a long tube connecting you and your child and responsible for the exchange of nutrients during pregnancy, is cut and a small length of the cord will be left on your baby with a clamp on the end. This small amount of umbilical cord will usually dry and fall off within the week, and all you have to do is keep the area clean and watch for any signs of bleeding from the area.

Your baby will also be subject to a quick physical exam. This is just a series of quick checks your doctor or midwife will perform to make sure that your baby has been born in good physical condition.

After this initial quick check, you can expect some further diagnostic tests to be performed over the space of the next few days. Within 72 hours of your baby’s birth he or she will be subject to a more rigorous series of tests, which include checks on your baby’s heart, testicles (for boys), eyes, hips, and hearing. These are usually just precautionary tests performed to make sure that your baby is as healthy as can be.

Amongst these tests two important but less well-known tests are the newborn hearing screen and heel prick (new-born blood spot screen) test. The former is a quick check on your baby’s hearing as a small number of babies are born with some degree of hearing damage. The second is performed between 5 and 8 days post-childbirth, and is a blood screen for a number of extremely rare but also dangerous conditions. These include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell diseases, and phenylketonuria (PKU).

Newborn babies are often given vitamin K, either orally or by injection, as vitamin K deficiencies can occur in newborns. The vitamin K deficiency is a serious blood clotting disorder, and as such taking the prescribed medication is a very effective way of dealing with the risk of this bleeding issue.

Mums after birth

Your body will feel very different after childbirth, after all you have just delivered a human life that you have been bearing for 9 months! It is unsurprising that most mothers will feel exhausted for a few days after childbirth, and the best thing to do is rest and follow any of your doctor’s instructions.

If you have had a Caesarean Section (surgical childbirth through an opening in the stomach area) or an Episiotomy (an incision made between the vagina and anus during assisted delivery) then you will also have to endure some pain and discomfort as the surgical incision heals. This is particularly the case if you have had an episiotomy as the position of the incision makes it hard to achieve relief. Your doctor or midwife will give you plenty of information about how to best take care of yourself and manage any pain or discomfort.

You can expect your breasts to get bigger and stay that way if you breast feed regularly. If you don’t start breast-feeding straight away then you are likely to start experiencing some soreness and tenderness as milk is still being generated. You will probably need to invest in a very supportive bra to alleviate this discomfort.

Your abdomen will probably feel quite loose after delivery, but a healthy diet and regular exercise will have you back to yourself in no time. This is because over the course of a pregnancy the skin and muscles in and around your abdomen will expand.

Many women experience some degree of incontinence after childbirth, and this is often easily dealt with by way of pelvic floor exercises, which your midwife can explain to you. Similarly many women suffer from piles, also known as haemorrhoids, after childbirth. This can also be dealt with effectively if you consume lots of fibre and drink lots of water.

Childbirth is extremely physically demanding, and as such these many physical symptoms are perfectly natural if unwanted. Delivery is also an extremely trying time emotionally, particularly because of a rapid change in hormonal levels that occurs in the few days after childbirth. The mood change associated with this is called the ‘baby blues’, and most women start to feel a bit down and weepy in the few days after childbirth. The baby blues are also referred to as postnatal depression, although in many cases this terminology isn’t applied unless the condition worsens. This can be an emotionally difficult time for anybody, which is why you should talk to your partner and midwife or doctor about what you are experiencing.

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