What to expect the first 48 hours after birth

Finally you get to meet your new baby, but you might not know what to expect immediately after birth. Here’s what you can expect for the first 48 hours after delivery. By Licia Selepe

You’ve been concentrating on a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but you may not have thought about what to expect after baby’s born. Right after a woman gives birth, her body undergoes huge changes. Immediately post-birth you and your baby will be checked regularly to make sure that your body’s going through the right changes and that there are no complications.

After delivery

Your experience after delivery depends on whether you’ve had a vaginal birth or a C-Section. The first few minutes after birth are quite a busy time for both you and your newborn. Midwife Philippa Hime says that the baby should be placed directly onto the mother’s chest for skin-on-skin contact immediately after delivery. This will help keep your baby warm and start the bonding process. The newborn will be examined and if you suffered any tearing while giving birth, it will be stitched up.

First feed

Hime says mom should be encouraged to breastfeed within the first hour of birth. “Mom should be assisted closely to ensure she has the correct feeding position for her and baby,” she notes.
The first milk your baby will be drinking is colostrum, which is high in nutrients. Don’t worry if it takes a while to produce milk; it will come.
Your baby’s sucking will help stimulate your milk flow and will help the uterus to contract to its normal size more quickly.
Make sure you feel comfortable feeding your baby before you go home.


With a vaginal delivery, most moms will experience pain as the uterus starts to contract back to its original size. After delivery, the uterus has to shrink from the size of a large watermelon down to the size of a spanspek, says Yvonne Bohn, co-author of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.
Oxytocin helps this process by causing uterine contractions. Your doctor or midwife might also try to help it along a bit by pressing on your belly and massage it every 15 minutes for the first two hours after delivery. “This can be very painful, especially if you didn’t have an epidural,” writes Bohn.
If you gave birth via a C-Section, Hime says you will have a fair amount of discomfort following the procedure. You will be given some effective pain killers that may make you drowsy for the first 24 hours or so. You will need a lot of help and support – especially in these first couple of days.


You will experience vaginal bleeding after giving birth, as your uterus heals. Called lochia, the bleeding is usually quite heavy and dark-red in the first 48 hours. Use special heavy-duty maternity pads (not tampons) to absorb the flow.

Get some rest

In the first few hours you may be too excited to sleep – even if you’ve had a long and exhausting labour. But you’ll want to take a nap soon after all the action. Newborn babies are also usually quite alert for the first hour or so after birth, so you might want to make the most of it.

Hospital stay

The length of your hospital stay will depend on the type of birth you had. Hime says in a government hospital, your stay may be as short as six hours for a normal vaginal birth. “If there are complications or you had a C-Section, your stay may last for weeks. In private health care, it can last for three days for a normal vaginal birth and four days for a C-Section.

Before you leave the hospital

  • Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam on the baby and new mom.
  • You’ll be taught how to care for yourself and your newborn.
  • You will be required to fill in some paper work.
  • Ask questions. The healthcare provider will give advice and help ensure a smooth transition when you go home.

Safe trip home

Be sure to have an infant car seat that meets safety standards. Place your baby’s safety seat in the backseat. Be sure to follow the instructions so that it’s secured properly in your car. When you’re ready to go home, place your baby in the safety seat and adjust the straps as needed. If you need help or are uncertain if baby is placed correctly, ask your healthcare provider.

*Originally published in April 2014

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