After Birth Events

Most pregnant women spend a lot of time boning up on facts about pregnancy. From the various pregnancy symptoms, like morning sickness and backaches, to what to expect with labor and delivery, you are probably quite familiar with many aspects of pregnancy. Yet, many pregnant women aren’t all that familiar with what happens after baby arrives! Those hours immediately after labor and birth are some of the most important for baby, so find out all about it!

Baby’s Appearance
Throughout your pregnancy, you have probably had an image in your head of what your baby will look like after childbirth. Most parents imagine a chubby-cheeked cherub, peacefully sleeping away; however, you may find that you baby doesn’t exactly fit such a perfect picture.

Most babies are actually quite wet, red, and messy upon arrival. And don’t be surprised if yours is screaming away too! Though you may be a little shocked, such an appearance is entirely normal. You may also notice a few other differences in baby, such as an elongated head shape and the appearance of downy, white hair on certain parts of his body. Rest assured, all babies look a little strange at first. Most parents don’t even notice it, they are so smitten with their new little one! Baby’s skin color and head shape will return to normal in the coming weeks

Immediately After Birth
If you have a vaginal birth, your baby will likely be placed immediately onto your abdomen. This will help you to begin the bonding process and will also help to keep your baby warm. He will be dried off and covered with a warm towel and hat. Because your baby can’t regulate his temperature very well, it is important that he stay warm and dry. Nurses may suction your baby’s mouth and nose in order to remove excess liquids and to clear his breathing passages.

As for the umbilical cord, your health care provider will clamp your baby’s umbilical cord in two places. Your partner or birthing coach can then cut the umbilical cord between the two clamps. A sample of umbilical cord blood will be taken, in order to check your baby’s blood type and to use for additional tests. If you and your partner have decided to cord blood bank, another sample will also be taken for this purpose.

Nurses will provide you, your partner, and your baby with special ID bands. These bands help to identify that you are a family. Your baby will also have her footprints taken for official medical records. Most hospitals will provide new mothers with a copy of these footprints, but be sure to ask for a copy if you don’t receive one.

If You Have a Cesarean Section
If you have a c-section, things may go a little differently for you and baby immediately after birth. When your baby is taken out of your stomach, she will be handed over to a nurse who will place her in a radiant warmer. This will keep your baby warm and comfortable. Your baby’s vital signs will be monitored and recorded. If she is doing well, she will be swaddled and brought to you and your partner. You will be able to interact with your baby while you are being stitched up.

The Apgar Test
After birth, your baby will have her vital signs and overall health assessed using a test known as the Apgar test. The Apgar test was created in 1952 by Virginia Apgar, and is designed to quickly and effectively measure the health of newborn babies. The Apgar test is performed at one minute and five minutes after birth. It works to assess five factors in a baby’s health, including:


  • heart rate (pulse)
  • breathing
  • activity and muscle tone
  • reflex
  • appearance


Each of these five factors is scored from 0 to 2, for a total score that is taken out of 10. Babies with a score of 7 or higher are usually healthy, however, if your baby has a lower score it does not mean that she is unhealthy. Babies with lower scores may simply need more attention after birth. It is important to remember that few babies score a perfect 10 on the Apgar test, so don’t panic if your baby’s score isn’t perfect.

Within the First Hour
The rest of your baby’s first hour will be a busy one. He will be weighed by health care workers and his length and head circumference will be measured and recorded. Antibiotic drops will be placed in his eyes, in order to protect against infections. These drops are required by law in the United States, because they help to reduce the risk of sight loss if infection should occur. Baby will also receive an injection of Vitamin K, to help his blood with clotting. If his temperature remains normal, your baby may also receive a sponge bath.

Within the first hour, if both you and baby are up to it, you can begin to breastfeed. Most babies are highly active after birth, and this may be the prime opportunity to begin to bond. It may take a little time for your baby to find your nipple, but most newborns latch on within the first hour or so. If you need help, don’t hesitate to talk with a nurse. You will probably see a lactation consultant later on.

Before You Leave: Additional Tests
Most women leave the hospital within 48 hours of giving birth. Before you leave, your baby will have to complete a few more tests though, to ensure that he is healthy and happy. A blood sample will be taken by pricking your baby’s heel. This blood will then be tested for various things, including hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria (PKU). Your baby will also likely receive a newborn hearing test to ensure that his ears are working just fine. Different states require different newborn tests, so be sure to inquire what blood tests your baby will be given. You may choose to order more tests if your state does not offer them free of charge.

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Are you a single mother who wants to share her birth story? At Pregnancy Stories, you can post your unique, amazing or funny tale about being a single mom. Help inspire and support other single mothers by telling your story.


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