Just one day after giving birth to my son, I thought it was a good idea to take him for a walk down the hospital hall, I mean what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, it’s a huge NO-NO after you give birth in a hospital because within just a few seconds nurse was running down the hall advising me to go back to my hospital bed. I wasn’t thrilled with her advice but decided to listen to her. As I was going back to my bed, the nurse told me I could easily get dizzy and fall due to blood loss, and it’s not recommended to take a walk with the baby without a wheeled bassinet. I didn’t know that, just like many other women aren’t familiar with this information (if it’s your first child) mostly because the amount of consumer health information about what exactly happens in the hospital after birth is quite limited. The purpose of this article is to discuss what happens in a hospital after labor.
The first hour
Unless you specify otherwise, after you give birth your baby will be cleaned and evaluated first. However, many women want to hold their baby straight from the womb, and if that’s your wish as well, you will have to make it clear when you arrive at the hospital. Why is it important to hold your baby immediately after you give birth? Joyce McKeever, the clinical program manager for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and director of clinical services at the Center for Breastfeeding at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune NJ, has a perfect explanation for that:
“The first hour after birth is when the baby is most awake and alert. It’s a great time to get acquainted by holding your baby skin-to-skin on your chest and to start breastfeeding, which helps the mom’s uterus contract and reduces bleeding immediately after delivery.”
When you are composing your birth plan or simply talking about your delivery with your health care provider make sure you specify how you want your first hour after delivery to go. For example, if your baby is perfectly healthy it’s okay to request a few minutes of one-on-one time.
Recovery after giving birth
One of the greatest advantages of giving birth in a hospital is the access to adequate medical care. Doctors and nurses are there to make sure you and your baby are perfectly healthy. Recovery varies from hospital to hospital, for example, in some hospital after you deliver the placenta and have been stitched up, you are transferred to postpartum rooms. Generally, they divide rooms into several categories e.g. labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum. However, some hospitals practice family-centered care where you get a private room that also contains fold-out bed for your partner. Also, in some hospitals it’s obligatory for baby and their mothers to spend time in the same room for a chance to bond. Therefore, while pregnancy week by week keeps advancing you should get informed about the recovery in the hospital where you will deliver your baby.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help
Most women take one of these mistakes:
- They avoid asking for help with breastfeeding, pain relievers or even with taking a shower and other aspects of recovery in hospital
- When asking for help they don’t consider asking for several things at once.
Jeanne Faulkner, RN and author of Ask the Labor Nurse blog, recommends while spending time in the recovery room after giving birth, you should use the call button wisely. The hospital is the perfect place to get all the help you need with every aspect of motherhood, and you should definitely use that opportunity to make your life easier. Moreover, when asking for help you should always consider asking for several things at once e.g. ibuprofen, breastfeeding help, juices, etc. Why is this important? It’s important because having specific requests allows nurses to provide more focus and efficient care.
If you’d like to take a shower after giving birth, you shouldn’t do it alone at the risk of losing consciousness increases when blood pressure drops due to hot water. Instead, you should use a shower bench and ask your partner, friend, family member, or a nurse to watch over you.
Duration of hospital stay
The first thing that all women want to know after delivery is duration of hospital stay as they want to take their baby home as soon as possible. Generally, insurance plans cover two-day hospital recovery after vaginal delivery and four days after C-section.
Regardless of how many days you spend in the hospital, there are a few things that have to be done before you leave. They are:
- Mommy exam – health care provider has to make sure you’re healing properly i.e. that your uterus is contracting and bleeding is decreasing. After delivery, you will most likely have heavy bleeding that weakens and decreases each day.
- Baby exam – pediatrician will have to examine your baby and administer heel-stick blood test that identifies metabolic disorders.
- Skills check – the purpose of this test is to determine that your baby is ready for breastfeeding or bottle-feeding successfully. Moreover, skills check also makes sure you understand how to perform basic tasks like diapering, bathing, etc.
- Forms – you have to fill out the forms and birth certificate.
Post-delivery body in the first 24 hours after labor
Here is what your body will experience 24 hours after you deliver your precious bundle of joy:
- Post-baby belly – remember when Kate Middleton gave birth to Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and she stepped out of the hospital the next day with a noticeable baby bump under her lovely dress? Well, just like the Duchess of Cambridge, you will also have a baby bump after giving birth. During your pregnancy abdominal muscles, uterus and skin are stretched, and it takes weeks or several months for that area to shrink back.
- Excess water weight – immediately after labor you will lose about 10 to 13 pounds which are great news. But even 24 hours after delivery you will still carry excess water weight that will be gone in a few weeks or months.
- Bleeding – after delivery you will experience vaginal discharge called lochia which consists of mucus, leftover blood and sloughed-off tissue from the lining of the uterus.
- Pelvic cramps – they are also called after-pains, and they are short-lived. You will experience these cramps because uterus starts to tighten as it returns to pre-pregnancy size and location.
- Soreness – after delivery it takes time to heal. For example, if you had a vaginal labor your perineum (area between vagina and rectum) will be stretched, torn, bruised and swollen. On the other hand, after C-section you will feel soreness around incision as well as exhaustion, constipation and nausea.
- Elimination issues – with a vaginal delivery your bladder is bruised and sore perineum may make it painful for you to pee.
- Breast changes – immediately after labor your breasts will produce small amounts of colostrum which is a thick and yellowish precursor to breast milk. Moreover as you try to breastfeed your baby, you will feel pain and soreness in your nipples.
- Mood swings – hormonal changes and physical discomfort may cause mood swings coupled with the lack of sleep.
Packing for hospital checklist
- Picture ID (driver’s license or any other ID with your photo), insurance card, and other hospital paperwork you will need
- Birth plan (if you have it)
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses (if you wear them)
- Bathrobe, nightgown, slippers, and socks – hospital provides them, but most women prefer taking their own
- Book, magazine, your own pillow or anything else that helps you relax
- Cell phone and charger
- Comfortable shoes
- Nursing or regular bras
- Maternity underpants
- Baby’s going home outfit
- Receiving blanket
- Don’t forget to install a car seat for you, baby.
Losing weight after delivery
As it was mentioned above, immediately after labor you will lose up to 13 pounds, but as excess water weight remains you want to start losing weight as soon as you come back home from the hospital. As physical exercise is out of the question for most moms (except celebrities who have a team of nannies catering their babies), you might want to try another approach. For example, the secret to Kate Middleton’s post-baby body was yoga and juices. Here are a few recipes for super juices for weight loss that will help you get back into the shape and improve your overall health at the same time:
- Beet greens, beetroot, carrot, and kale
- Pineapple, beetroot, orange, carrot, spinach, red cabbage, lemon
- Carrot, orange, apple, lemon, beetroot
- Apple, cucumber, orange, kale, celery, parsley, lemon
- Mango, pineapple, kale, orange, ginger root,
- Apple, cucumber, celery, kale, ginger root, lemon.
Play with the amounts in order to get the taste you like the best, combine ingredients, blend them, and you’ll get nutritious power bomb that will boost your immunity and help you lose weight.
Ideally, you should create your birth plan and specify to your health care providers what you want or need. A few weeks before delivery you should get informed about recovery options in the hospital where you will stay at, don’t hesitate to ask for help and make sure you get plenty of rest.
Featured photo credit: ShutterStock via shutterstock.com