Labor is one of the toughest and most exhilarating things a woman will ever go through. After hours of discomfort, pain, and other strange sensations, a woman will have a beautiful baby to hold in her arms. Before she gets to that part, however, there are the four different phases of labor she will go through. Phase 1 which is referred to as active and early labor. This stage helps the body and woman prepare for Phase 2, the second stage of labor, which is where the baby moves through the birth canal. After that is Phase 3, the third stage of labor. This is referred to as the “afterbirth” and it is where the placenta is delivered.
Finally, we get to Phase 4, the fourth stage of delivery, which is the recovery stage of childbirth. The placenta is delivered and the birth experience itself is finished. But guess what ladies, the fun is only beginning! This is where the real work of motherhood officially begins, and amidst all her emotions and new feelings, She begins to learn how to start one of the most incredible journeys she will ever undertake in her life.
So much happens at this stage that many of us, mother and mother-to-be, don’t even realize. Many women know about recovery happening, but what about the things she didn’t know about the fourth phase of labor? Are there as many steps to this phase as to the others? In short, the answer is yes. So here are 15 things we didn’t know about the fourth phase of labor:
This is a very important time to establish breastfeeding by making sure baby starts to eat as soon as possible after giving birth. Having a lot of skin to skin contact as well holding baby close, will help establish and cement breastfeeding. This also helps Mom continue to bond with her baby, get to know his/her cues, and helps Mom produce more milk by having the baby nearby. The hormones that are released in this mother/child bond help in developing the mother and child relationship and what will continue to grow from it. If she has any issues breastfeeding, this is the time to get help from the nursing staff to find what position best works for her and her baby. Things will only go more smoothly if this is established early on.
Another common occurrence for a new Mom in the fourth phase of labor is something quite obvious though we don’t always think of it. This is fatigue that occurs from both giving birth as well as from blood loss that the mother experienced in the birthing process. Though no one would tell a woman who just gave birth to suck it up and start moving around right away, people sometimes forget how exhausting and what a feat having a baby is. It requires a lot of rest for her to regain her strength and agility. Time will help her heal, and she should never hesitate to sleep as much as she can when baby is resting to help do that. As long as she is feeling rested and strong, she will be able to do the hard and exciting job of parenting.
Often times, women have experienced shaking of their bodies after having given birth, whether they have been given pain medicine or not. The body has been through quite a brutal experience in terms of it being twisted, turned, and accommodated for the little human that has recently emerged out of it. This is when she needs to practice self-care and not hesitate at all to ask for help. She should not be afraid to ask for more blankets to stay warm and cozy, more food or water to build up her strength and stay hydrated and never feel that she is exaggerating if in any way she feels odd, or that her body is not responding the way it is supposed to. Every woman is different and will need different recovery times. Regardless though, she needs to pace herself and have her caregiver nearby to remind her to practice some personal TLC.
This is rather an embarrassing one, but considering where baby came out, it’s no wonder that some new Moms have difficulty urinating after childbirth. They have experienced tearing, ripping, bleeding in their uterus. Of course this is repaired, but it takes weeks for the body to heal completely. Patience is required by the Moms themselves and their families. They need as much physical support as they can in this case, getting up and getting help going to the bathroom.
Every little step of progress she makes needs to be congratulated so she strives to do even more. As long as she is eliminating enough waste, she is on the road to recovery. Again, the woman need not be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s to the washroom, to the cafeteria or a short walk for fresh air. She will be all the better for it.
A lot of times after a woman has delivered her baby she may feel cold or a little on the shaky side. After all, she has just given birth to a bona fide human being. That’s big stuff! She may also just need some comfort and some TLC. Warm blankets are a great way to give her that comfort and support. If she needs to rest and stay propped up in bed, let her enjoy that. She needs to take her time to recover from childbirth so that she can be ready to assume one of the most important jobs she will have: that of being a mother. A woman should never be embarrassed to ask for things like blankets, or more rest, or some help with baby. She needs to remember to take care of herself so she can regain her strength.
Some women have more bumps and bruises after childbirth than others do. They have swelling in various parts of their bodies due to giving birth. A lot of women will have soreness between their legs, or other types of inflammation in their bodies. Ice can help with that as well as well as elevating their legs and resting other parts of their bodies to make sure that everything will be ok. Again, a woman should never be embarrassed to ask for any kind of help she may need to help her feel better so that she can be as strong as possible to take care of her baby. The ice packs will also be soothing for sore muscles which may take some time to recover from the workout that is childbirth.
A lot of women will be very thirsty during and after childbirth. Their bodies have been nourishing baby in utero and now outside of utero too with breastfeeding. They need to replenish the lost liquids that go into taking care of baby as well as to keep their own energy up. The best liquid to have is water of course, but as long as the drinks are not high in caffeine or sugar, it is fine for Mom and baby. Mom needs to remember that it is important she keeps herself hydrated. She will need lots of energy to take care of baby now in the early months as well as later on. It will seem some days as if she is drinking more than on other days. This is normal. Her liquid intake depends on how well hydrated she is that day, so it is all relative.
A lot of women feel quite weak after delivering a baby. It is normal to feel tired and overwhelmed as well as filled with a lot of emotions and birth is a very tiring ordeal. It is also very physically taxing on a lot of women. Some may have difficulty standing up after and have trouble moving around. A woman may need help standing up or moving to go to the bathroom. There is no shame in asking for this help if she feels weak or tired. She needs to remember that her family and the medical staff will always be there to assist her if she is not feeling well. A woman needs to pace herself and start to slowly move around at her own pace so that she can start to feel comfortable again in her own body. Only then will she be fully on the road to recovery.
Shortly after baby has been born, women (or their partner if they have had a c-section), will be given their baby for skin to skin time which will help with mother/baby bonding outside of the womb. Women are also encouraged to nurse right away as well, to continue to build this bond, and to help establish breastfeeding which is stimulated by the skin to skin contact. It is important to start this bond with baby as soon after birth as possible. Some women are even able to nurse while they are getting stitched up in their recovery room if it was not a c-section. If it was, that happens shortly afterwards in the recovery room where they are brought after the operating room. This whole process is given a lot more attention than it used to as it helps calm baby’s breathing and heartbeat.
The fourth stage also marks the stage where the placenta has already been delivered. It is the physiological separation from the wall of the uterus. It usually comes out within 15-30 minutes of birth. This is sometimes helped along by oxytocin given by an injection or sometimes it comes out naturally and no medical assistance is needed. Doctors will watch that the woman is not having postpartum bleeding after the placenta is out and that all is healing nicely. The woman herself may experience some discomfort after birth, but as most of her attention will be on her baby she will get through it especially if she has wonderful support around her. The important thing is for her to report any kind of pain or discomfort she feels to her medical team.
Many women will go through a whole bunch of emotions after pushing a human being out of their body. Some of these emotions will be feeling alert and euphoric. Some people have been shocked to hear that especially if a woman has had a long and painful labor, she may be feeling alert and so high. But that is just it. She is having a major adrenaline rush, and living, breathing and enjoying every little bit of time with her precious bundle of joy. She is in the zone, and so her body is not registering the exhaustion yet from the ordeal it has been through. Once she adjusts to the mechanics of motherhood and comes down from the high, she will most likely crash from the physical exhaustion and need to rest.
On the other hand, she could be feeling a little on the empty side, like she was big and full carrying life inside of her, and now that this life is out, what is she? It may feel strange to be in her post pregnancy body for the first little while. She may even feel a little depressed that things are finished, especially if she had a positive pregnancy experience and birth. Then again, there are women who may be feeling emotionally empty and sad. They are now experiencing the exhaustion of motherhood when they are still getting up on their feet and are still healing. This is really tough on any woman, but especially on someone who perhaps has had a difficult pregnancy and is prone to depression or anxiety. Regardless, she needs to bring up any feelings that bother her or seem strange with her medical team.
A lot of women end up feeling weak and lightheaded after childbirth pretty much immediately, but sometimes the feelings linger for several hours or more. This is normal, but she still needs to let her medical team know, and keep track of any other symptoms that may seem strange or give her any indication that something else could be happening. If she is feeling weak and lightheaded, the best thing to do is to make sure to hydrate by drinking water, sleeping, and resting whenever she can, and asking for any other kind of assistance that she may need. Her body and mind have been through a lot, and it is normal that she will need time to recover from labor and childbirth. Her medical team will also monitor her overall physical health for any changes that could be troublesome.
If a woman has had an epidural for a vaginal or c-section birth, it is normal that she will not have sensation back in the lower regions of her body right away, particularly if she had a big dose to numb the lower part of her body. However, for some women it takes an even longer time for her to get sensation back in her body after an epidural. It can be a little scary at first, but this is completely normal, and she need not be alarmed. She could tell her doctor and they will be able to put her mind at ease, but mainly all she can do is wait it out. The sensation will come back. Only if she is not experiencing a gradual return of feeling, should she be concerned and alert her team immediately.
There are Moms who also experience extreme skin sensitivity on different parts of their bodies, especially on their breast. They may even not want to be touched on their breast or to put baby on their breast, or at least on a certain angle on their breast. This is all normal and with time, the sensitivity will go away. She needs to be patient, and adjust to her new body as carefully as she can. Others can follow her cue, and not make any demands on Mom. She knows what she needs and will do what is best for herself and for her baby. This will mean some juggling and some adjustments, but she will figure it out. Mom can try and find clothes are more comfortable for nursing and experiment with different breastfeeding positions that can help make her and baby comfortable.
Sources: Healthy Families BC, Kidspot, GHC