Information is very readily available these days, and for many moms-to-be, research and prep is as important as the labor and delivery process itself. Maybe they're Type A expectant moms, who need to be informed and in control, or they may be laid back and simply feel better about a situation if they know what to expect. The fact is, there are certain things about the delivery process, and what follows, that don't seem important until they're actually happening. And, let me tell you, they really happen!
For this mom, I thought I had read and digested every piece of available information in regards to my hospital stay and the immediate aftermath with the baby. I was prepared. I was packed. I had followed the best lists of what to bring to the hospital and what to leave behind. Our house was ready. Let me tell you just how wrong I was...
I knew nothing. That's right. I understood the logistics, and had the basics down including requisite supplies, but there were things that happened throughout the days and nights that followed which left me scratching my uber control freak head. Now, I'm not saying there aren't women out there sharing these tidbits and gems, but I had not absorbed them. Maybe I didn't see them as important at the time in all my due date approaching glee, or perhaps they escaped me, but I've made it my mission here to share with you the things that had me saying, "What on earth? Why didn't I KNOW this?"
What follows is a list of 15 things moms didn't know to expect after giving birth:
18 Mama Must Pee
Soon after a vaginal delivery, it’s important for a woman to urinate in order to prevent a bacterial or bladder infection. Many new moms are unaware that they will need to use the restroom, generally within six hours of delivery, or medical staff will most likely use a catheter in order to help them empty their bladder. Due to the swelling and trauma to the vaginal area and urethra, urinating can be quite difficult for mom so soon after birth.
She may have trouble relaxing the necessary muscles, or she may be unable to react to the sensation which signals she needs to empty her bladder due to the effects of an epidural or other medication used during the labor process. For a variety of reasons, it's not unusual for a woman to have a catheter placed in order to facilitate the process, as leaving the bladder full can cause complications of a more serious nature.
17 Gassy Duo
Another mind blowing aspect of newborn life can be summed up in three letters: GAS. For some babies, they'll experience very little, and this is typically a good thing. For others, they will toot and pass wind like there's no tomorrow. Many women do not expect how earth shatteringly loud their tiny creation's toots can be. We mean scare the dog in the other room kind of loud. It has something to do with a lot of air leaving a very tiny body, and the requisite force the babe puts into the whole effort, but countless moms share how they found themselves reaching out to other women to verify that their child's gassiness was in fact normal. It is.
Unless the baby is experiencing severe pain, gas is a part of newborn life because of how much air they tend to swallow, so sit back, relax, and laugh at those fog horn productions. They don't last forever, and you'll have plenty of joking material for when the little one accuses you of embarrassing them in the future.
16 Tearing Timeline
Tearing. It’s not a term any new mom wants to hear tossed around her delivery suite or postpartum room, but it’s a very common part of the baby birthing process. The vagina must stretch significantly to allow for the passage and birth of a baby, and statistics show that up to 95% of first time moms will have some degree of tearing to the area as a result of delivery.
Many moms, however, are not aware of what to expect in terms of recovery time. The time it will take to heal will depend primarily on the degree of injury. For the majority of new moms who leave their birthing suit with a first or second degree tear, they can expect the laceration itself to be mostly healed within 10 to 15 days of delivery. That said, the area will continue to be extremely tender and sensitive for several weeks. Moms are advised to abstain from sex post delivery for a minimum of six weeks, and this advice is typically related to appropriate time necessary for the body to completely mend post delivery.
15 Baby Rash and Marks
Mom isn’t the only one experiencing an ordeal the day she welcomes her precious baby into the world. As a result of both the labor and delivery process, the baby can appear red, splotchy, squished, and a plethora of other adjectives that don’t sound adorable, but in fact are, when describing a beautiful newborn. Many moms don’t expect the rashes and birthmarks that may appear on their newborns within hours of birth.
In fact, nearly 80% of newborns are born with some variation of markings. Most common is a salmon patch, or stork bite, which is a temporary, flat red patch most often appearing on the forehead, eyelids, nose, lips, or the back of the neck. Some of these marks are temporary, usually fading within the first years of life.
In addition to birthmarks, various rashes are extremely common post delivery. Babies are instantly exposed to a variety of environmental factors upon birth. Everything from: mild heat rash, cradle cap, baby acne, and irritation from oils, perfumes, soaps, or disinfectants on mom, can cause skin irritation for the baby. None of these are cause for concern, but new moms should check with their pediatrician if they notice any unusual rash that concerns them.
14 Seriously Fancy Underpants
Expectant moms can discover a world of mind boggling information regarding post delivery care with a simple Google search. There are countless blogs which provide tips for what to pack in the hospital bag for mom and baby, and even tutorials on how to prepare postpartum icicle pads that help to soothe the proverbial crime scene going on in a new mom’s underpants post delivery.
However, many women don’t expect just how much she’ll love those free, hospital issued underwear. They’re totally incredible and very welcome when mom only wants to focus on her precious new baby, and not constantly worry about changing sanitary pads or dealing with the post delivery bleeding that is also quite surprising and substantial. Hospitals typically provide mesh underwear, which fit just snugly enough to hold the largest pads you can imagine, firmly in place. These underwear are both comfortable and functional, and most women find that they leave the carefully packed underwear in their overnight bags and happily stick with the free ones. After all, why fix what’s not broken?
13 Swelling Central
By the time labor and delivery rolls around, most expectant moms have had some experience with parts of their bodies swelling to unusual proportions. Pregnancy often causes water retention for a variety of reasons, resulting in plump feet, ankles, hands, and even faces. Despite this unpleasant side effect of pregnancy, many women are shocked to discover how swollen other areas of the body are post delivery.
Specifically, many women are surprised to learn that the pressure and trauma experienced in the vaginal area during birth can lead to the entire area becoming extremely engorged due to increased blood flow, and that this swelling can last far longer than they anticipated. One potential benefit of all of this swelling is the overall numbing effect that occurs as a result. Many women report being totally oblivious to the details of the situation down there after birth, mostly due to the inability to feel any sensation in the area what so ever. Unfortunately, that beautiful oblivion doesn’t last, and mama will soon be more aware of the damage done during birth. Bring on the skin numbing spray!
12 Baby LoJack
While infant abductions from the hospital setting are incredibly rare, with 308 reported cases from 1983-2016, it does happen. Because of this, many healthcare facilities vigilantly protect their most innocent and vulnerable patients by equipping mother and baby with electronic tracking bracelets. They sound the alarms hospital wide if a newborn is removed from the maternity or postpartum ward. In addition to providing tracking and alarm notifications, these bands also digitally identify a child and mother, helping to prevent the still rare, but more frequent, mix up of babies.
Since the move toward babies rooming with their mothers during the hospital stay, the margin for error in confusing identities has significantly decreased. That said, many moms do not expect the very stringent security procedures hospital staff will follow to ensure mom's and baby’s safety. Thankfully, these rules are precautionary, and family should be able to relax and enjoy time with the baby, knowing that security is of the utmost importance to those in charge of care.
10 A Free Massage
Fundal massage. Doesn’t it sound amazing? It must be if it has the word “fun” in it, right? If a woman was fortunate enough to get a prenatal massage at some point during her pregnancy, she might blissfully picture hospital staff rubbing her shoulders as she happily nurses her baby in her postpartum bed. Yeah, that’s not happening. At least, not unless she makes her partner do the rubbing in order to take her mind of the grinding she just experienced to her lower belly and uterus.
Many moms don’t expect the fundal massage, which is intended to check the uterus’ position and prevent complications from it remaining enlarged or failing to shed pregnancy remnants. Nurses may rub and massage the uterine area post delivery for moms who experienced both natural and surgical births. Although sometimes tender and unpleasant, this rub down isn’t horrible. New moms need just remind themselves that it’s far better than the alternative which is a complication capable of sidelining mom for much longer.
8 Baby Girls Menstruate
Many moms worry naturally about the odd things newborns do and produce in their first few days of life. It’s completely understandable; they’re tiny humans, and we aren’t quite sure what’s normal and what may be a sign that there’s an issue requiring a doctor’s care. That said, most oddities surrounding newborns are in fact completely normal.
One particularly fear inducing sight is that of blood in a baby girl’s diaper. Moms may panic initially, as this doesn’t seem like a harmless occurrence. However, it’s actually normal for small bits of blood to pass from a female newborn’s vagina in the first few days of life, most commonly at two or three days old. This mini menstrual bleed is the result of a withdrawal of hormones the baby was exposed to while in utero. It will be the only time she will experience bleeding of this kind for several years, until her actual menstrual period arrives.
7 Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Luxuriously thick and beautiful hair is one potential benefit of pregnancy and prenatal vitamins. A woman may find that by mid pregnancy, her hair appears thicker and may even change slightly in texture due to the surging hormones coursing through her body. Unfortunately, this is one perk mother nature rudely snatches back post delivery.
Most commonly, women will notice a large "shed" of hair in the months postpartum. For some women, this only happens when they wean their baby if breastfeeding, or it can occur for some even during exclusive breastfeeding. Regardless, mom is not actually going bald. Instead, the daily hairs she would have lost during her pregnancy which her body held onto due to hormones, are now leaving all at once. It can seem dramatic, but mom should relax and hold onto the fact that by 12 months postpartum, the shedding will be mostly done, and her hair will have returned to normal volume.
6 Lactating Baby
This is another example of the power of hormones at work. Galactorrhea of the newborn, or neonatal milk (witch’s milk) as it is commonly called, occurs in approximately 5% of babies including males. Exposure to hormones in mom's body while in utero contributes to the production of milk in the newborn post delivery, and for about 2% of babies, this milk production can persist up to two months after birth. Experts insist that the condition is completely harmless and generally requires no treatment.
Moms should watch for any redness, signs of infection, or tenderness as the only real potential causes for concern. Doctors typically recommend that mom does not massage the area, or do anything in an attempt to curb or encourage milk production. This is a perfect example of a condition which is best left alone, as it will resolve on its own as the hormone levels diminish in the baby's body in the days and weeks post birth.
5 Paperwork Madness
The postpartum hospital stay tends to be a whirlwind of activity and exhaustion, yet blissful cuddles. For some women who deliver naturally with minimal complications, the hospitalization period can be as brief as 24 hours or less. If a woman delivers via c-section, her stay will typically last a few nights. Regardless, during this time, physicians, lactation consultants, nurses, hospital liaisons, administrators, and medical personnel will attend to both mom and baby. Prior to the baby being discharged, parents will fill out paperwork for the child’s birth certificate, social security card and identification, as well as other forms required by the hospital.
Many women do not anticipate the paperwork that is a necessary part of a hospital stay with the baby. In fact, many hospitals now issue a baby care log to new parents. This chart remains in the postpartum room with mom and baby. Mom is asked to log when she feeds, either by bottle or breastfeeding, and changes either a wet or poopy diaper. These logs help the medical staff gauge how well a newborn is feeding which, of course, is a crucial aspect of the baby’s condition in the first few days of life. And, you thought you were done with homework...
4 Eyes Wide Open
Newborn babies have many hidden talents. Some of them are absolutely adorable (like their penchant for the most earth shattering smiles as a reflex), and some of them are a little bit, shall we say...creepy? One of their more interesting tricks includes the ability to sleep with their eyes open. That's right. It's just about as bizarre as it sounds, but it's also very common. Doctors insist that the condition is harmless, and it tends to occur as a result of a hereditary trait, so you may have done just the same when you were a tiny babe!
Research has shown that babies are most likely to sleep with their eyes open during R.E.M. or rapid eye movement sleep, which is also the deepest stage of sleep. This is why they may appear completely knocked out during this strange occurrence, ignoring loud sounds and other jarring stimulus. Once again, it's no cause for concern, and most babies tend to outgrow the habit by 12 to 18 months of age. Thank goodness.
3 Head Pulsating
Newborn babies are miraculously and perfectly designed. Their little bodies include a host of features, which enable them to begin thriving at birth, separated for the first time from mom. One of these interesting elements is the fontanelle, or "soft spot," at the top of their heads. The fontanelle is described as the space between the bones of the skull in an infant, where ossification is not complete, and the sutures not fully formed.
Many moms expect the soft spot and understand what it is, but they might find it a little more interesting when they get a chance to really study it. For many babies, especially those with sparse to no hair, an actual pulsating rhythm in tune with the baby's heartbeat, can be seen in the fontanelle. It's not every day that you see a newborn's head pulsing, so many women find themselves concerned at first. This is actually very normal, and there's no reason to worry unless the soft spot suddenly appears extremely sunken, in which case it can be a sign of dehydration in an infant. As the bones of the baby's skull fuse slowly together over the next several months, this pulsating action will become less noticeable.
1 Everything Aching
The labor and childbirth process is grueling. Regardless of whether a woman delivers her child naturally or via c-section, she will most likely have undergone some severe strain on her muscles as she pushed, endured contractions, or underwent surgery. Many women expect the discomfort they experience as a result of tearing, sutures, stitches, or surgery, but they're surprised by the whole body aches and all over soreness experienced post delivery.
Part of the typical labor process relies on tensing the body and baring down in order to push. Believe it or not, this engages muscles and ligaments not typically used in such a demanding way. For a woman in labor, she has one goal in mind, and she might not notice certain muscles or bones protesting the position or hold she keeps for a long period of time. However, once the adrenaline, epidural, or pain killers have left the body, mom can be in for a rude wake up call. Women don't expect the aches which can be felt to the tips of a new mom's hair post delivery. Thankfully, muscles will heal, and the ashiness will fade. Plus, one look at that precious newborn, and she'll forget all about her throbbing fingernails.