Giving birth can be rough on the body. Whether the baby is born naturally or via a C-section, there is a lot that a new mom has to deal with physically to make sure that she remains healthy. As much as she wants to devote all of her time and energy to her baby, she also has to take care of herself in the first few hours and days postpartum.
We have gathered a list of things that moms need to do after the birth. Some of them are physical things that complete the process and start her healing, while others can help both her and the baby get a good start in their new phases of life. Most of these types apply to new moms no matter how they gave birth. But a C-section can present a few more obstacles that women need to prepare for, so we've added some more items that might help in those cases.
Of course, there are a lot more things the moms have to do after giving birth since they have to care for their newborn and make sure that tiny little baby is getting all that he needs. We're not even going to get into the diapers and feedings and such. Mom life is really busy, even right after the baby's birth.
Here are 15 things moms need to do after birth (and five if she had a C-section).
20 Deliver Something Else
When the baby is born, the mom still has a job to do that requires another push or two. The mom has to deliver the placenta, which is the organ that forms along with the baby attached to the placenta that can draw nutrients from the mom to provide to the baby.
Most of the time, hormones during the delivery cause the placenta to detach afterward. But the organ can become almost as big as the baby, which means that it can take a few pushes to get it to come out. There are some women who have a complication where the placenta doesn't detach, and it might require surgery to get it all out. This has to be done to avoid health complications, so the minor inconvenience of having to deliver the placenta is a blessing that has to be done after the birth.
19 Cord Clamping Decision
Motherhood starts with the birth of the baby, and within seconds, the mom has to make a decision on what to do with the umbilical cord. If the placenta hasn't been delivered yet, then the cord still goes inside of the mom, so doctors are usually pretty quick at wanting to cut the cord.
New research has shown that there are benefits to delaying the clamping of the cord until after the cord stops pulsing. It just takes a few extra minutes, but it could mean that the baby ends up with a better blood supply. We suggest that moms research the issue before the birth and let the doctor or nurse know of her thoughts beforehand. After all, so close to the moment she gives birth, a mom might not be ready to give a rational thought much less a medical decision.
18 Ice In Her Undies
Giving birth is very painful. The area downstairs can get really swollen and bruised and torn and hurt due to all the trauma that happens in the delivery. That means that it won't take long before it's time to put some ice in a new mom's undies.
Hospitals stock special ice packs that go with their mesh underwear, and nurses know that the ice is an important part of getting through the first few days postpartum so they will help moms figure it out. The ice can help relieve the swelling and reduce the pain, so it's a good idea to put the ice pack on each time that mom visits the restroom for several days.
17 Take Advantage of The Golden Hour
The first hour after the birth is a big one for mom and baby. Both are likely to be alert and active, thanks to endorphins released during the final stage of the delivery. And that can make the time, which is known as the golden hour, the perfect opportunity to try to learn how to breastfeed and bond for both.
Nursing can be very difficult, and that's why that doctors and nurses recommend getting started in that first hour when the baby's latching and sucking reflex is at its height. As long as the mom and the baby are healthy, it's the best time to get started on the important task of breastfeeding the baby.
16 Take A Stool Softener
Going to the restroom to urinate is a problem after giving birth, but going no. 2 is an entirely different level of nightmare. So the long and short of it is that women need to take a stool softener after giving birth to try to make things go a little smoother.
First of all, the body pretty much cleans itself out before the birth, so things back up for a little bit afterward. And if mom takes any pain medication (including C-section moms), then that can constipate her further. And for women who go through natural deliveries, that area is torn up and sore. Many new moms end up crying in the bathroom even with a stool softener. It's a must have, trust us.
15 Decisions About Baby's First Medicine
A lot of parents are very opinionated when it comes to getting shots these days. They may think that they have time to continue their research for a few weeks, but the first medicine decisions have to be made right away. In most hospitals, the nurses automatically give injections for vitamin K while they are weighing and wrapping up the baby just moments after birth.
Nurses also typically put an ointment on the baby's eyes that can protect them from going blind if the mom had an unknown infection. It's so commonplace that they don't typically ask if the mom wants it or not, so they need to speak up — preferably before the birth — if they don't want their little one to have these first interventions.
14 Massage For The Tummy
Moms might not think that the moments after the birth is not the right time for a massage — maybe in a few weeks, since they surely deserve some pampering, but not an hour later. Yet, it's a very important part of the care that women need after the birth, whether the baby is born naturally or via C-section.
The massage of the abdomen, which is usually done by nurses several times in the immediate postpartum period, helps the uterus to shrink, which in turn helps to staunch postpartum bleeding. It's not relaxing, and it can be a little painful, but it's important so that the mom can recover quickly after the birth.
13 Drink Lots Of Water
Hydration is a key part of being healthy. That's true during pregnancy, and it's true during labor and delivery. However, women who have hospital births — no matter the method — often end up having to avoid water and other drinks for hours before the birth.
Women who undergo surgery are told to fast for a period so that there is less of a risk during the procedure, and because of the possibility that a woman could end up needing a C-section, even those who are in the hospital for a natural birth are told not to eat or drink. That means that they need to be sure to start hydrating after the birth so that their bodies have all that they need.
12 Put On A Postpartum Pad
Throughout pregnancy, women get a reprieve from their period. But after the birth, things catch up with them quickly. Even with uncomplicated births, the mom will start to have a discharge called lochia that is like a period on steroids, so it won't be long before she is going to want to put on a pad.
This isn't related to bleeding, although that can happen too, so women who have a C-section have to put on a pad too. They will need to wear their pads for the next four to six weeks. The flow can be pretty bad right after the birth, but it usually lightens up after a while.
11 Kangaroo Care Is A Must
We've talked a lot about things that are good for the mother while she is recovering right after birth. But at the same time, this woman has just become a mom, so most of the time her thoughts are on how she can help her baby. One of the best things she can do immediately after the birth is called kangaroo care.
The practice is when the baby is placed directly on the mom's skin, and it can make them both better. The baby's heart rate tends to stabilize and his mom helps him learn to keep himself warm. And kangaroo care can do a lot to help the mom and baby begin to bond. Sometimes there are medical issues that delay kangaroo care, but it's a must for when both are well enough to have that time together.
10 Talk To A Lactation Consultant
A majority of women these days breastfeed their baby — at least in the first few weeks after birth — providing a wonderful start for the little one. But nursing is very stressful and difficult in the beginning, for the mom and the baby. So we recommend that all moms make sure that they talk to a lactation consultant after they give birth.
No matter how much a woman has studied prior to the birth, and even if she has experience with a previous child, there are tips and tricks that a lactation consultant can provide that can make a big difference in the endeavor. Most hospitals with birthing centers have lactation consultants on staff, so it's a free and invaluable source that all moms should take advantage of if they can nurse.
9 Bestowing A Baby Name
Another huge job for moms and dads is to pick the baby's name. Some parents have the name decided before the birth, but many wait until they meet their little one to choose from their list of favorites. But for both, the name is officially bestowed when mom fills out the birth certificate paperwork before she leaves the hospital.
A baby name is a very big deal. It stays with the child the rest of their life and is definitely a part of their identity. That can make choosing a baby name stressful, but it's also one of the most exciting announcements of the day.
8 Take Care With Stitches
A good majority of new moms leave the hospital after giving birth with stitches. Obviously, that is true for women who have C-sections, but a lot of women who give birth naturally will experience tearing and might need stitches as well. Either way, moms have to be careful.
The key is to keep the area clean, which can be difficult for the ones who delivered naturally since they will still have to use the bathroom. Trust us, though; toilet paper is not the way to go. The nurse will help a mom figure out how to use a squirt bottle (pro tip: fill it with warm water) to clean themselves after using the restroom. The stitches will dissolve in time, but it will definitely be a few days before a new mom should even consider trying TP.
7 Call The Boss And Insurance
This one doesn't have to happen the day that women give birth — unless they are expected at the office that day. But we did want to remind women that it's important not just to notify family and friends but also to let their boss know when the baby has arrived and their maternity leave begins.
It's also important to notify your insurance company about the birth so that the baby is covered. Most of the time, the baby will be included in the mom's hospital bill, but she needs to start seeing the pediatrician days later, so make sure she is covered. Oh, and call the pediatrician too and make an appointment.
6 Take A Nap
Some women spend days in labor. They might be able to get some rest, especially if they have an epidural, but a lot of energy goes into the experience. Afterward, many women have a rush of adrenal that carries them through the first precious hours with their little one. But pretty soon, they will need a nap.
Moms don't need to worry about the clock when they have a newborn — the baby doesn't care if it is night or day. They may want to welcome friends and visitors and enjoy every second with their baby. But it's important for them to get rest too. Sleep will come in short naps for the next few months, but it's still necessary. So don't be shy about getting a little nap to recharge after giving birth.
5 C-Section: Ask To Hold The Baby When Possible
Having a C-section means that there will be a different setting for the birth. It's more clinical and sterile, but that is only to protect the mom and baby from contracting an infection. These days, many hospitals are more willing to consider making the experience a little more natural for the mom, but even if a so-called gentle C-section isn't offered, moms should be able to hold the baby soon if their health and the baby's health allows.
Some moms are able to hold their little one while the surgery is still under way. Others might be able to hold their baby in the recovery room or be able to get back to their regular room soon to be able to bond with the baby. If mom asks, she might be able to get to hold the baby sooner than she expected, and that is a good thing for both of them.
4 C-Section: Stay On Top Of Pain Meds
Unfortunately, C-sections can be painful. They are major abdominal surgeries, and a number of organs are disturbed by the operation. Moms don't need to feel bad about needing the surgery, and they shouldn't feel bad about accepting the pain medication that doctors prescribe afterward. There is a reason that the medication is recommended — because it's harder to heal and take care of the baby when mom is in too much pain.
Talk to the doctor about any concerns with the medications, especially if you plan to nurse. But don't feel bad about asking for a pill when you need it. According to nurses, if you take too long to get the medication then the pain and the healing can take longer. It's better to take care of yourself so you can take care of the baby.
3 C-Section: Get Help For The First Walk
A mom who has a C-section has to reach a number of milestones before the doctor will consider releasing her from the hospital. The first is to get up and walk, and that usually happens within 12 hours of the surgery. But moms shouldn't rush, and they should definitely get some help before they traverse down the hall.
With a C-section, a woman will have a spinal or epidural. Her legs will be numb, and it can take a while for the medication to wear off. While a woman might think that all of the sensations have come back to her legs, she might be surprised when her feet hit the floor. Falling can be really bad, and it might open the stitches up. So just in case, she is unsteady on her legs, it's best to have some help.
2 C-Section: First Trip To The Toilet
Another big milestone before a mom with a C-section can go home from the hospital is when she can go to the bathroom. The mom will have a catheter to allow her to go when she is under the effects of the epidural, but it can be difficult to go that first time without the aid.
A nurse will accompany the mom on her first trip to the toilet after a C-section, and she will help get the mom set up with a postpartum pad and anything else she needs. A stool softener can help in producing that first trip to the bathroom since pain meds can have a constipating effect too. Once that happens, mom and baby might be able to get home soon.
1 C-Section: Don't Overdo It At Home
This advice can apply to a mom who gives birth naturally or via C-section, but many moms seem to forget when they get home that they just went through major surgery. They shouldn't even lift their newborn for a few days, and she has to be cautious about opening up her stitches or getting an infection for weeks.
It can take a while to get back to normal after having any surgery, and a C-section is no different. That's why doctors give C-section moms a couple more weeks to recover compared to a natural birth before clearing them to return to work. The recovery can take eight weeks, and it might be even longer if the mom isn't careful to take care of herself along with the baby.