Childbirth & Labour

After the Birth

The birth of your baby is a much anticipated event. Often, for pregnant women who have never had children before, giving birth is not always quite as expected, especially compared to the sterile childbirth scenes on TV. Afterwards, you will have a baby to take home with you and that's when the hard work really begins! This section of should provide a guide of what you can expect during and after the birth.


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Having the baby delivered onto your chest

These days, it is common for women to ask for the baby to be delivered onto their chest, or handed to them straight away. Mums who are having a caesarean inevitably have to wait a few moments longer, as the baby will have arrived behind the screen. Regardless of any preparation you may have made, including films and books, nothing can prepare you for the reality.

Your gorgeous bundle will, in all likelihood, look less than his or her best as they will be covered in blood and mucus and look red and wrinkly in appearance. For babies who have needed a little help making an exit, the head can become temporarily misshapen. This can be startling if you are not prepared for it. Some babies are bald, some have a glossy head of hair - although this is likely to fall out over the coming weeks before reappearing. Babies who arrive prematurely, or even just a few weeks early, can have a fine covering of downy hair over their face and bodies. This is called lanugo and is designed to keep them warm in the womb. It disappears in due course.

Feeling many different emotions with your baby

Having finally been handed your baby to cuddle, it is normal to feel a range of emotions. Overwhelming happiness, gratitude that you both made it through safely, a sense of unreality and even numbness are all common feelings just after the birth. Around three to four days post-delivery it is entirely normal to feel rather weepy. This is not post-natal depression but just the hormone levels in your body trying to sort themselves out.


Where will you go after the birth?

Practices vary between hospitals in terms of your length of stay. Much depends upon whether this is your first child, how traumatic the birth was and of course the health of your baby. Typical stays on labour wards vary between same day discharge through to anything up to seven days.

For those with babies who need a little more medical attention and are staying in special care, most hospitals will try and move mums to a side room to prevent them being surrounded by women who have their babies next to them. Having a baby that needs to go to special care can be distressing but nurses on the units are sympathetic and mums can usually be with their babies as long as they want, at any time of the day or night.

To breastfeed or not?

Choosing whether to breastfeed or use formula is a sensitive issue with staunch supporters in both camps. If you have opted to breast feed, you can put your baby to your breast from day one, even though your milk will not yet be fully flowing. A substance called colostrum will instead be produced by your body. This is creamy and full of vital nutrients and the best thing your baby can receive, even more so than the proper breast milk. Breast milk generally starts to be produced anything between two and five days after the birth. For mums who already have children it tends to be quicker, whereas mothers who have had an emergency caesarean may find it can take a little longer.

The sensation of breasts starting to feel heavier than usual, as well as an odd tingling can be an indication that milk is about to start flowing. When it starts for the first time, it can catch out first time mums as it will often start to flow without stimulation, usually at the most inopportune moments such as after a shower (never before!) or even while on the W.C.

Whilst breast feeding has its benefits, it is far more difficult than it looks. The images of a mother simply lifting her baby to her breast are far removed from reality as both mother and child need to learn how to do it. The most important thing is the happiness of both the mother and baby. If breast feeding makes feeding time fraught, formula may be the better option. The mouth and tongue movements a baby makes are very different for bottle and breast feeding so switching between the two isn't as simple as it sounds, however it is entirely possible to do.


This is perhaps the appropriate point at which to mention dirty nappies, the one part of parenthood that few mums relish. To start with the contents are likely to be black; this is merely the remnants of the meconium which will pass in a few movements. It subsequently changes to anything between canary-yellow through to brown. Breast and bottle fed babies nappies do smell vastly different, with breast-milk producing a far sweeter-smelling end product.

Coming home with your baby

Once you are both home, it is common to feel out of your depth and rather bewildered. Most first time mums can feel rather panicky. Some feel that they do not know enough to be trusted with the care of the baby. Babies are far more robust than they look but if you are worried about anything, don't hesitate to ring your health visitor or doctor. In most cases, the worst that will happen is that you will feel a bit silly when you ring, but they will have heard pretty much every question you can think of and many more besides.

Having a baby changes your emotions permanently and for most women, puts a whole new perspective on most things in life. Having a little person in the house who offers unconditional love makes all of the tiredness and sacrifices worth it a thousand times over.

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.