Straight after birth

If you have your baby in hospital, you’ll probably be moved to the post-natal ward after the birth to be with other mothers who have had their babies.

Some mothers enjoy their stay in hospital and find it restful and easy. Others find it tiring and rather stressful. It depends on how you’re feeling, whether you like the company of other mothers or miss your privacy, and on how the ward is organised. In any case, your stay in hospital, if your delivery is uncomplicated, is likely to be short.

It helps if you have discussed your postnatal care with your midwife during pregnancy so you know what to expect. Any preferences can be recorded on your birth plan so that staff on the postnatal ward will be aware of your wishes. You are likely to need quite a lot of help and advice with your first baby. The midwives are there to guide and support you so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

If you do have a problem with the way things are organised in hospital, talk it over with a member of staff. Perhaps a change can be made. If all is going well with both you and the baby, then most hospitals will probably give you the option of going home after 48 hours or even earlier, even if it’s your first baby. The community midwife will visit you at home and continue to help you to care for yourself and your baby. You will need to make sure that initially your partner or someone else can be there to help you at home and do the cooking and housework.


Babies need a lot of sleep during the first few months of their lives so it’s important to ensure they are sleeping as safely as possible.

The Lullaby Trust website provides information for parents on safe sleep with topics covered such as – Back to Sleep, Room Temperature, Mattresses, bed sharing/room sharing and advice regarding sofa’s, smoking, breastfeeding, dummy use to name but a few.

If you’ve had stitches, bathing the area often will help healing. Use a bath, shower or plain warm water. After bathing, dry the area carefully. Change your pads regularly and wash your hands prior to and after changing your pads to reduce any risk of infection. Pelvic floor exercises can also help healing. If stitches are sore and uncomfortable, tell your midwife as she may be able to recommend treatment. Painkilling tablets will also help.

If there is swelling or bruising, this may be helped by starting very gentle pelvic floor exercises.

Remember to sit down gently and lie on your side rather than your back to start with. The thought of passing urine can be a bit frightening at first because you can’t seem to feel what you are doing.

Sometimes it’s easier to pass urine while sitting in a warm bath. The water dilutes the urine so that it doesn’t sting. If you really find it impossible to pass urine, tell your midwife. Also drink lots of water to dilute the urine.

You probably won’t need to open your bowels for a few days after the birth but it’s important not to let yourself become constipated. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, salad and wholemeal bread, and drink plenty of water. This should mean that when you do open your bowels you will pass a stool more easily.

Whatever it may feel like, it’s very unlikely that you will break the stitches or open up the cut or tear again, but it might feel better if you hold a pad of clean tissue over the stitches when you are trying to pass a stool. Avoid straining for the first few days. Sometimes stitches have to be taken out but usually they just dissolve after a week or so, by which time the cut or tear will have healed.

Piles are very common after delivery but they usually disappear within a few days. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals, and drink plenty of water. This should make it easier and less painful when you pass a stool.

Try not to push or strain as this will make the piles worse. Let the midwife know if you feel very uncomfortable. She will be able to give you an ointment to soothe them.

After the birth you will lose blood and discharge from your vagina. The loss will probably be quite heavy at first which is why you will need super absorbent sanitary towels. Do not use tampons until after your 6 week postnatal check since they can cause infections in the early weeks after the birth.

During breastfeeds you may notice that the discharge is more red or heavier. You may also have “afterpains”. Both because feeding causes the womb to contract. They are a good sign that everything inside you is going back to normal.

Bleeding often becomes heavier around seven to ten days after delivery, but if you find you are losing blood in large clots, you should save these towels to show the midwife as you might need some treatment.

Gradually, the discharge will become a brownish colour and may continue for some weeks, getting less and less. If you are breast feeding, you may not have another period until you stop feeding or even for some weeks or months after that.

If you are not breastfeeding, your first period may start as early as a month after the birth. But it could be much later.

You can become pregnant before your period starts even if you are breastfeeding, so make sure you decide on a reliable form of contraception before you and your partner resume sexual intercourse.

Breast milk serves the unique needs of a baby for the first 6 months and for two years and beyond, following the introduction of suitable weaning foods, as it is nutritionally balanced with the perfect amount of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to help your baby grow.

Breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect your baby from infection and changes to suit the different needs of your baby as it grows.

Breastfeeding provides your baby with the best start in life. It contributes to the health of both mother and child in the short and long term.