Many women spend their pregnancies planning for birth and a baby. What they don't plan for is what happens right after birth in those hours when the baby is here but mom is still in limbo from all the change. Things can get interesting during this time, and many women are surprised at all the strange things that occur in those first hours.
Of course, mom will be bonding with her little one and learning what it is to become a mother, but her body will also be working to recover and finish out the birthing process. Mom's body will also react to the medication and anesthesia she received, and different women respond in different ways.
Doctors and nurses will check on mom and perform tasks to keep the healing process moving, and moms who want to breastfeed will start that process pretty much immediately. Though the time after birth may seem like the calm after the storm, there is actually quite a bit that still takes place in those first few hours.
Knowing what to expect will help mom keep her expectations real and not feel panicked when she gets the jitters or notices her uterus is still contracting.
20 More Contractions
Much to the surprise of many women, contractions don't end after the baby arrives. Mom's body will continue contractions to expel the placenta, and they will continue after that as her uterus contracts back down to size. Breastfeeding can especially bring on the contractions, and many women are shocked to find themselves feeling these pangs outside of the hours of active labor.
Luckily, the afterbirth contractions aren't as intense or pain-filled. They are there for a purpose and will stop when they are no longer needed. Mom just needs to know that all the pain doesn't end when the baby arrives, and her body will still react with contractions for a while.
19 The Afterbirth Jitters
Whether mom has a V birth or by C-section, most women complain about the afterbirth jitters. These jitters leave mom shaking all over, and it can be alarming if mom doesn't know to expect them. They generally have nothing to do with being cold.
The good news is that they won't last. They are likely caused by the major hormonal shifts mom goes through after the baby arrives. Medication used for birth, such as anesthesia, can also cause these shakes. Mom may want help holding the baby or have someone else hold him while she is jittery, but it should end within minutes or hours.
18 Stitching Up The Downstairs
No matter how mom births, she will likely receive stitches in those early hours after birth. Moms who have C-sections will definitely end up with staples or stitches, and women who have a V birth may receive them due to tearing or cutting that takes place as the baby exits.
Though many women ask to avoid an episiotomy, an intentional cut made by the doctor, some women still tear down there on their own when the baby is making an exit. The stitches will help the area hold together, and may dissolve on their own within weeks. If mom received anesthesia for birth, she likely won't feel the doctor putting the stitches in. If she didn't, most doctors will use a numbing medication to insert them.
17 The Start Of Breastfeeding
Ideally, mom will start trying to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. The earlier the relationship is established, the longer many moms decide to breastfeed according to research studies. That's why mom will likely come out of giving birth and immediately start figuring out how to feed her baby with her body.
It can be overwhelming, but lactation specialists and midwives can help mom with the breastfeeding process. They will help mom make sure her little one has the right latch and let her know what is normal during the breastfeeding relationship. She'll have the support she needs for a good, early start.
16 Spotting Red
Bleeding is a big part of the post-birth life. Mom will likely be surprised by how much blood she sheds after birth, but doctors will watch her in those hours and make sure she doesn't suffer from a postpartum hemorrhage.
This bleeding after birth is called lochia, and it happens no matter how mom delivers her baby. That's because the bleeding comes from the open blood vessels left after the placenta comes out, and that happens to every mom. This bleeding can last for weeks and is the reason mom will leave the hospital in an adult-sized diaper. She should have pads at home for the weeks ahead.
15 Blood Pressure Check
Mom will have her blood pressure checked many times right after birth to make sure everything is okay. This is normal since checking vitals after something as major as labor or a C-section lets doctors know if everything is going back to normal for mom.
Some women will feel woozy if their blood pressure dropped from the anesthesia, while others may be checked for high blood pressure if they suffered from preeclampsia during pregnancy. Either way, mom will likely hardly notice the squeeze of the blood pressure cuff since she will have a baby in her arms and her body will still be recovering from birth.
14 It's Time For The Mom Diaper
It's true, mom goes home in a diaper, just like her little one. The afterbirth bleeding, or lochia, is so intense that a normal pad just won't cut it at first. That's why the hospital provides a panty diaper contraption for mom's post-birth experience.
When mom gets home, she can decide whether she wants the full support of the panty diaper or if she just wants to wear pads. Honestly, the diapers aren't cute but they are comfortable and don't grab or pull in a way that would make mom's lower region hurt any more than it has to after birth.
13 Bruising Is Normal
Bruising after birth has been called one of the best kept secrets of labor, meaning women don't talk about it though it happens often. When mom is pushing out the baby, she can bruise or have the feeling of bruising from where she tore. It's not comfortable, and many women find the pain surprises them.
This feeling happens after birth when the anesthesia mom used wears off and she gets feeling between her legs again. It will go away after a matter of days, but it can make moving around very uncomfortable in the beginning. Ice packs and pain relievers will help.
12 Bathroom Time
While mom will likely not want to think about anything else going on below the waist, she will be required to use the bathroom shortly after birth. Women who had epidurals or spinals will likely still have a catheter in for a bit, but when it comes out mom will be responsible for proving she can make things move on her own.
The first bowel movement won't be expected in the first four hours, but it is usually requested in the first 24-48 hours. Most women can attest to the fact that it's not fun and it's best to get it over with using the aid of stool softeners.
11 A Burst Of Energy
Mom is usually told she will have a nesting instinct before going into labor where her energy will increase and she'll busily prepare for the baby. What many women don't know is that after giving birth, some women experience another energy burst. It's usually followed by exhaustion, but when labor is over and mom sees her baby, she may feel energy surging through her veins, keeping her awake and aware for hours.
Not every woman experiences this. Some women feel a bit disconnected from the anesthesia, and others may be too overwhelmed to notice their energy increase. For the women who do experience this energy surge, it's refreshing after the intense work of labor.
10 Feeling Exhausted After The Excitement Wears Off
Mom has just done one of the hardest things that will ever be required of her, and she may have a very strong feeling of exhaustion once the exhilaration wears off. Though she may find it hard to sleep with a new infant and soreness from birthing, she will likely feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion that seeps into her very bones.
This is normal and will pass, though the sleep deprivation that comes with those early months of parenting means mom will likely have many more tired days ahead of her. Still, she may regain her energy after birth fairly quickly after slipping into this deep exhaustion.
9 It's Time For Meds
Many women assume Pitocin, a medication that is used to keep labor moving or induce it in the first place, will be given to them to start labor or to keep it going if contractions slow down. However, a popular time for women to receive Pitocin is after the baby is born.
Administering Pitocin can help the uterus keep contracting to expel the placenta. These contractions can also lessen the risk of a postpartum hemorrhage, though mom's contractions may be more intense once Pitocin is given. Mom may or may not know her doctor is even doing this since Pitocin can be slipped into the IV without mom realizing.
8 The Afterbirth Massage
Don't get too excited about the prospect of a post-birth massage. It's not exactly the relaxing kind mom might be used to, though fundus or uterine massage definitely serves a purpose.
After mom gives birth, the nurse will usually come back in fairly quickly to give her abdomen a firm rubdown. The purpose is to help relieve some of the post-birth crampings and alleviate the postpartum bleeding. Uterine massage can help mom's uterus continue to contract, and though this may not be comfortable, it can help her avoid a postpartum hemorrhage since the contractions should slow the bleeding taking place.
7 Food Should Arrive After The Baby Comes
For the mom who felt like she was starving during labor or her C-section, rejoice! Food should arrive sometime after the baby. While doctors may still keep mom on clear liquids for a short amount of time, they should start offering her sustenance in other forms soon.
Many doctors now know it's not recommended that a woman refrain from all food during labor, but some still adhere to the old guidelines. This leaves women wondering when their first meal after birth will be, and in most cases, it happens fairly quickly. Mom should eat as much as she can because she needs the energy to care for her little one.
6 Wait For The Medication To Wear Off
It's great to have the option to have a medicated or unmedicated birth. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so mom will need to do her research before labor to decide.
If mom opts for a medicated birth or has to have a C-section, then a bit of her time after birth will be spent recovering from the medication. Epidurals and spinals leave mom numb from the waist down, so she'll have to regain feeling in her legs. That means she won't be getting up to do anything for a while and will still be watched to make sure she doesn't fall when the medicine wears off.
5 The IV Will Be Removed
Women are often required to have an IV placed in their arms or hands during labor. This allows doctors to administer medication if it's needed, and it also makes things faster in the case of an emergency where mom needs to be knocked out quickly to save the baby.
Once labor is over and things have calmed down, the nurse will likely remove mom's IV. This is convenient because it allows mom to use her hands more freely when holding the baby. Women who have C-sections often have to keep the IV in a bit longer, but women who have a V delivery and don't have any issues will likely see their IV disappear fairly quickly.
4 Get The Ice Packs Ready
Bruising and pain from birth mean mom will be looking for quick ways to relieve the inflammation in her nether region. Ice packs will likely be offered after mom is stitched up and ready because they offer an at least temporary relief that mom feels immediately.
Many women use ice packs when they get home as well until all the inflammation and pain is gone. It's good to have more than one on hand so mom can rotate when one gets too warm. Nurses will show her how to do this and help mom out while she is still in the hospital.
3 Deliver The Red Sack
The placenta has to come out because the baby no longer needs it. That happens pretty quickly after the baby exits, and if it doesn't then mom will likely be given something to make the uterus contract so the placenta will come out.
Mom will want to know if she wants the cord to be cut immediately or if she wants to let it finish pulsing due to the health benefits that approach might offer. If mom decides to wait, the placenta will stay connected to the baby by the umbilical cord while mom is holding her little one and trying to get him to nurse.
2 Say Hello To Visitors
If mom or dad notifies family and friends the minute mom goes into labor, then she may have to deal with anxious visitors in those early hours after birth. Unless mom really wants to see people while she is learning to breastfeed and bond with her child, she should let everyone know to stay away until the family has had time to settle down and rest.
Mom and dad may want a lot of people around right after the birth. In that case, those early hours may be spent with a crowd around mom and the baby in the recovery room. It's just good to decide before the birth which scenario sounds the best so mom won't have to decide while she is trying to bond with her little one.
1 First Look At The Post-Baby Belly
The post-baby stomach is a sight to behold, and many women have mixed feelings about it. Mom will likely be surprised by her deflated abdomen and proud that her body was able to expand and contract to grow her little one.
She will also probably feel shocked to look down and see the leftover skin just hanging out now that there's no baby to keep it out and tight. It's okay to have a post-pregnancy belly and to feel like it makes mom look a few months pregnant still. Slowly, the belly will go down in size just like it expanded.
Resources: Betterhealth, Thebump.com, Babycenter.com