What happens straight after the birth?

What to expect after your baby is born, including information on skin-to-skin contact, bonding, stitches and vitamin K injections.

It's natural to focus on your baby's birth while you're pregnant. But it's a good idea to also know what to expect after labour.

Skin-to-skin contact really helps with bonding. It's a good idea to have your baby lifted onto you as soon as they're born and before the cord is cut so you can be close to each other straight away.

Either before, or just after the cord is clamped, your baby will be dried and then covered with a towel to stop them getting cold. You can continue to hold and cuddle your baby while this is done.

Your baby may have some of your blood on their skin and perhaps vernix, the greasy white substance that protects your baby's skin in the womb.

If you prefer, you can ask the midwife to dry your baby and wrap them in a blanket before your cuddle.

Mucus may need to be cleared out of your baby's nose and mouth.

Some babies need a bit of help to get their breathing established.

Your baby may be taken to another part of the room to have some oxygen. They'll be brought back to you as soon as possible.

Your baby will be examined by a midwife, neonatal nurse or paediatrician, then weighed and possibly measured, and given a wrist or ankle band with your name on.

Your midwife or maternity support worker will help you wash and freshen up before you go to the postnatal ward.

Vitamin K for newborn babies

You'll be offered an injection of vitamin K for your baby. This helps prevent a rare bleeding disorder called haemorrhagic disease of the newborn.

Your midwife should have discussed the injection with you while you were pregnant.

If you'd prefer for your baby not to have an injection, they can have vitamin K by mouth instead, but they'll need further doses.

Stitches for tears or cuts

Small tears and grazes are often left without stitches because they can usually heal without treatment.

If you need stitches or other treatments, you should be able to carry on cuddling your baby while this is being done.

If you have had a large tear or an episiotomy, you'll need stitches.

If you have already had an epidural, it can be topped up. If you haven't, you should be offered a local anaesthetic to numb the area.

Preventing bleeding after the birth

Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a complication where you bleed heavily from the vagina after your baby's birth.

There are 2 types of PPH, depending on when the bleeding takes place:

  • primary or immediate – bleeding that happens within 24 hours of birth
  • secondary or delayed – bleeding that happens after the first 24 hours and up to 12 weeks after the birth

Sometimes PPH happens because your womb doesn't contract strongly enough after the birth.

It can also happen because part of the placenta has been left in your womb or you get an infection in the lining of the womb (endometritis). 

To help prevent PPH, you'll be offered an injection of oxytocin as your baby is being born. This stimulates contractions and helps to push the placenta out.

Now read about you and your body after the birth.

What are the first things that will happen once my baby is born?

In this video, a midwife talks you through what will happen immediately after your baby is born.

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