Most women will remain in the hospital for 24 hours after delivery. Take advantage of this time to bond with your new baby, get some rest, and receive some help with breastfeeding and caring for your baby.
What to Expect after Delivery
Right after delivery, your baby will likely be placed on your chest while a nurse closely evaluates your baby's transition. Transition is the period after birth when your baby's body is adjusting to being outside your womb. Some babies may need oxygen or extra nursing care to transition. A small number may need to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit for extra care. However, most new babies stay in the room with their mother.
In the first hours after delivery, hold your baby and attempt skin-to-skin contact to ensure optimal bonding and the smoothest possible transition. If you are planning to breastfeed, which is highly recommended, your baby will likely try to latch on.
During this time, you will stay in the room where you had your baby. A nurse will:
- Monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount of vaginal bleeding
- Check to make sure your uterus is becoming firmer
Contractions, Bleeding, and Pain
Once you deliver, the heavy contractions are over. But your uterus still needs to contract to shrink back to its normal size and prevent heavy bleeding. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus contract. These contractions may be somewhat painful but they are important.
As your uterus becomes firmer and smaller, you are less likely to have heavier bleeding. Blood flow should gradually decrease during your first day. You may notice a few smaller clots passing when your nurse presses on your uterus to check it.
For some women, the bleeding does not slow down and even becomes heavier. This may be caused by a small piece of placenta that remains in the lining of your uterus. Rarely a minor surgery is needed to remove it.
Care of the Vagina and Perineum
The area between your vagina and rectum is called the perineum. Even if you did not have a tear or an episiotomy, the area may be swollen and somewhat tender.
To relieve pain or discomfort:
- Ask your nurses to apply ice packs right after you give birth. Using ice packs in the first 24 hours after birth decreases the swelling and helps with the pain.
- Take warm baths, but wait until 24 hours after you have given birth. Also, use clean linens and towels and make sure the bathtub is clean each time you use it.
- Take medicine like ibuprofen to relieve pain.
Some women are worried about bowel movements after delivery. You may receive stool softeners.
Passing urine may hurt during the first day, but this does not usually last longer than a day or so.
Caring for Your Baby
Holding and caring for your new infant is exciting and makes up for the long journey of your pregnancy and the pain and discomfort of labor. Nurses and breastfeeding specialists are available to answer questions and help you.
Keeping your baby in the room with you helps you to bond with your new family member. If the baby must go to the nursery for health reasons, take advantage of this time and rest as much as you can. Taking care of a newborn is a full-time job and can be tiring.
Some woman feel sadness or an emotional letdown after delivery. These feelings are not uncommon and are nothing to feel ashamed about. Talk with your health care provider, nurses, and partner.
After vaginal birth
Katz VL. Postpartum Care. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 22.
Patterson DA, Matus CD, Curtis J. Vaginal Delivery. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 177.
Update Date 11/21/2014
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.