Meeting Your Baby and Recovering: The First 12 Hours

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Hours one through six after birth

Of course your experiences will depend on your labor and birth and local procedures, but here is what usually occurs in your first 12 hours after birth.

1-2 hours

As long as he is well, your baby can be placed in your arms, and you can cuddle him and make the most of these first magical moments. The doctor or your partner will cut the umbilical cord after a few minutes, or once it stops pulsating. You may feel elated, relieved, or just exhausted. Don't be alarmed if you start to vomit, shake vigorously, or feel too exhausted to even hold your baby at first. These are all very normal post-birth sensations.

If your baby is fine and you want to breast-feed, put him to the breast, but he may just nuzzle at first. Snuggle him close, skin to skin: the warmth of your body is all he needs right now. At 1, 5, and 10 minutes, your baby will be observed and given an Apgar score (see Apgar score). He will be wiped with a soft towel and his fingers and toes checked. He will then be weighed and his head circumference measured. He will also have a hearing test in the first hours.

But you also have work to do. As soon as your baby is born, you have to push once more to expel the placenta. You'll have milder contractions that detach the placenta from your uterus. After about 10 or 20 minutes (sometimes longer), you'll be done (see The third stage).

If your perineum tore, or you had an episiotomy (a cut to ease your baby out), you may need stitches. You'll be given a local anesthetic, unless you already have an epidural, so you don't feel a thing. Your partner can hold your baby and sit close by while you are stitched.

2-3 hours

Time to refuel: many women say their first drink of water and snack after giving birth are the best they've ever tasted... enjoy.

If you're feeling fine and there are no concerns about your condition, you'll likely be moved to the room on the maternity ward where you'll spend the remainder of your time in the hospital. You'll be taken there in a wheelchair with your baby in your arms. (In some hospitals, you'll never leave the room where you deliver; some labor and delivery rooms are designated as postpartum rooms, as well.)

3-4 hours

After the exertion of giving birth, you'll be sweaty, sticky, and in need of a shower, which you can have now if you didn't have an epidural. Ask a nurse or your partner to walk with you if you're wobbly. Afterward you'll feel like a new woman and can put on a breast-feeding bra for comfort.

5-6 hours

Off to the bathroom? The first time you urinate it can sting, especially if you had stitches, so pour a cup of warm water over your perineum as you urinate. The hospital needs to know everything is in good working order before you leave its care. You'll need to use sanitary pads to soak up the vaginal blood loss (lochia).

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Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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