During your pregnancy you will be focused, quite naturally, on your growing baby, and as you reach your last trimester daily thoughts about the birth will be on your mind.  It is a good idea to know what is expected during labour, and also to learn what will happen immediately after birth to you and your baby.

Skin-to-skin contact with your baby

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

Cord clamping and vernix

The cord is clamped and cut, and your baby is dried to stop them getting cold. You’ll be able to hold and cuddle your baby.

Sometimes yours baby may be quite messy, with some of your blood on their skin and perhaps vernix (the greasy white substance that protects your baby’s skin in the womb). You can ask the midwife to wipe your baby and wrap them in a blanket before your first cuddle.

There maybe a need sometimes to remove mucus from your baby’s nose and mouth. Some babies need a bit of help to get their breathing established. Don’t worry if your baby may be taken to another part of the room to have some oxygen. They will brought back to you as soon as possible.

If you are having a hospital birth your baby will be examined by a midwife or paediatrician, then weighed and possibly measured, and given a unique ID band with your name on.

Vitamin K for newborn babies

You’ll be offered an injection of vitamin K for your baby. This helps to 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 prefer your baby not to have an injection, they can have vitamin K by mouth instead, but they will need further doses.

Stitches for tears or cuts

Small tears and grazes are often left without stitches, because they usually heal better this way. If you need stitches or other treatments, you should be able to carry on cuddling your baby.

If you have had a large tear or an episiotomy, you will probably 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.

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

Preventing bleeding after the birth

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

There are two 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 six 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 will be offered an injection of oxytocin as your baby is being born. This stimulates contractions and helps to push the placenta out.