New baby

You’ve probably been so busy you haven’t stopped to think what happens after your baby's born at a birth centre (midwife-led unit). Here’s an overview...

1. Third stage of labour

When your baby comes out, they no longer need the placenta that’s been their lifeline.

For a little while after you give birth, the cord that runs between your baby and the placenta is still pulsating and pushing blood into them. This usually stops after a few minutes when you’ll feel an urge to push the placenta out. This is known as the third stage of labour (Begley et al, 2015; NICE, 2017).

Some women prefer to have a ‘physiological’ third stage of labour. This means without drugs and where the cord isn’t clamped until after it’s stopped pulsating. This way, your baby still has all the blood from the placenta.

Other women prefer ‘active’ management. This means having an injection that encourages a big contraction so that your placenta comes away from the wall of your womb quickly. If that’s what you go for, the midwife will usually clamp and cut the cord straight away to avoid the drugs from the injection reaching your baby (Harris et al, 2012).

2. Vitamin K injections

You’ll be offered an injection of vitamin K for your baby (McNinch and Tripp, 1991). This helps to prevent a rare bleeding disorder called haemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN). Your midwife will discuss this with you while you’re pregnant.

If you prefer your baby not to have an injection, your baby can have vitamin K by mouth instead (Puckett and Offringa, 2000; NHS Choices, 2016). Taking this option means your baby will need more doses (NHS Choices, 2016).

3. Skin-to-skin contact

When you’ve had your baby, your midwife will lift them straight onto you so that your skin can be touching theirs. This is known as skin-to-skin contact and has benefits for you and your baby (Moore et al, 2016).

As well as stimulating breastfeeding (Harris et al, 2012), it can help you give birth to your placenta. Skin-to-skin contact is a great thing for dads to do soon after the birth too.

4. Cleaning up

Don’t get a shock if your baby is pretty messy when they come out. They’ll have some of your blood on their skin and perhaps vernix – the greasy white substance that protects their skin in the womb.

Midwives might need to clear the mucus out of your baby’s nose and mouth too.

5. Breathing

If your baby needs a bit of help to get their breathing established, they might be taken to another part of the room to have some oxygen. Your baby will be brought back to you as soon as possible though, don’t worry (NHS Choices, 2016).

6. Check over

A midwife will examine your baby soon after they’re born to check they’re all ok and see whether they need any extra care (NHS Choices, 2016).

7. Weighing and measuring

Ready for those all-important messages you’ll send announcing your baby’s birth weight, your newborn will be weighed and possibly measured. They’ll also be given a band with your name on to identify them (NHS Choices, 2016).

8. Stitches for tears or episiotomy

Yep, it’s not all about the baby…

If you had small tears or grazes, your midwife might recommend leaving them to heal naturally without any stitches. If you need stitches, they can often be done by the midwife who looked after you during birth.

A large tear or episiotomy, on the other hand, might mean a transfer to a hospital (NHS Choices, 2016).

9. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby

Your midwife will be there immediately after the birth to help you feed your baby. They’ll also give you lots of support with breastfeeding if that’s what you’d like to do.

10. Going home: how long will I stay in the midwife-led unit or birthing centre?

If you’ve had an uncomplicated birth, you could be back on your own sofa within a few hours. As long as you feel well, that is, and not too daunted at the idea of being at home with your newborn.

Some units like you to stay for up to 24 hours and you’ll be transferred to a bed in the postnatal area (Which?, 2018). Your partner might be able to stay with you overnight on a chair too but check beforehand.

Some units also offer private rooms that you can pay to use (Which?, 2018).

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Begley CM, Gyte GM, Devane D, McGuire W, Weeks A. (2015) Active versus expectant management of women in the third stage of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (3):CD007412. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25730178 [accessed 30th May 2018]

Harris T, Monro J, Jokinen M. (2012) Evidence based guidelines for midwifery-led care in labour; Third stage of labour. The Royal College of Midwives. Available from: https://www.rcm.org.uk/sites/default/files/Third%20Stage%20of%20Labour.pdf [accessed 30th May 2018]

Moore ER, Bergman N, Anderson GC, Medley N. (2016) Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (11):CD003519. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003519.pub4. Available from:  http://cochranelibrary-wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003519.pub4/abstract [accessed 30th May 2018].

McNinch AW, Tripp JH. (1991) Haemorrhagic disease of the newborn in the British Isles: two year prospective study. BMJ. 303(6810):1105-1109. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1671305/ [accessed 30th May 2018].

NHS Choices. (2016) What Happens Straight After Birth. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/what-happens-straight-after-the-birth/ [accessed 30th May 2018].

Puckett RM, Offringa M. (2000) Prophylactic vitamin K for vitamin K deficiency bleeding in neonates. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000(4):CD002776. Available from : http://cochranelibrary-wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002776/full [accessed 30th May 2018].

Which? (2018) Postnatal care, what happens after you’ve given birth. Available from: https://www.which.co.uk/birth-choice/choosing-where-to-give-birth/postnatal-care-what-happens-after-youve-given-birth. [accessed 30th May 2018].

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