The first hour after delivery of the placenta is known as the fourth stage of labour. We discuss benefits of skin to skin contact after birth and supplementary vitamin k.
This article covers the following topics:
Many women instinctively want to cuddle their newborn baby 'skin-to-skin' straight after birth. This is an instinct supported by scientific research which has found that this early skin-to-skin contact has important benefits for both mums and babies, helping you both to recover from the birth and get to know one another.
You can place your baby on your chest (with a hat and light blanket if the room's not very warm) and often she will start 'rooting' for your breast. Skin-to-skin contact also helps your newborn maintain a steady body temperature after birth, and provides her with the reassuring sound of a familiar heartbeat.
You will spend this fourth stage of labour in the place where you gave birth, either in the hospital delivery suite, birth centre or at home. If you had your baby by caesarean then the fourth stage of labour will take place partly in the operating theatre as your incision is being repaired, and partly in a recovery room or ward.
Skin-to-skin contact is still possible even if you've had a caesarean or epidural – you may just need a little extra support to hold your baby if you are numb. If you are very tired or unwell, your baby will still benefit from close contact with your birth partner, if you have one.
This stage can be a very emotional and intense time, or a calm and relaxed period, depending on how you are feeling and the environment you're in. Your hormones are very actively changing after birth as your body gets ready to feed your baby (breastfeeding at this time can be beneficial), and it is completely normal to feel any number of emotions ranging from relief and joy to anxiety and sheer exhaustion. If you have a birth partner, they may be able to offer lots of support (while feeling emotional too, usually!)
'Baby blues' are very common hours or days after your baby is born, and most new mums do feel weepy at some stage. Meeting other new mums in your local area is one way to help you feel more positive and supported in those early weeks and months.
Your midwife will use this time to check your body post-labour. For example, she will check your blood loss and feel how your uterus is contracting, and maybe take your blood pressure and pulse. She will also check your perineum for tears and will put in stitches if necessary. If you have had an anaesthetic (epidural), you'll take a while to regain feeling in your lower body. Caesarean section is major abdominal surgery and you can read more here.
It is routine in the UK to give additional vitamin K to a newborn baby, usually through an injection but there is also an oral option. The reason for this is that there is a low risk of abnormal bleeding in infants and vitamin K helps the blood clot to prevent this. Your midwife should discuss your options for vitamin K and it is up to you to decide whether to give your baby vitamin K through the injection, orally or not at all.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, labour and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about pregnancy, labour and life with a new baby.