Your hospital experience from pregnancy to birth

Find out what happens to you and your newborn during your hospital stay. By Tammy Jacks

*Originally published in June 2012

When the day arrives for you to welcome your little one into the world, you may have a host of questions about what to expect in hospital. Nursing Sister and midwife, Cavim Knight from Olivedale Clinic explains what you can expect.

In the delivery room

“Whether you’re assisted by a midwife and deliver in a private birthing room or a general hospital delivery room, the post-partum routine is pretty standard across the board,” explains Cavim. Straight after your baby makes his way into this world, he’ll go through a series of events.
At first, he may be placed on your stomach or taken to a warm area where the doctor will clamp the umbilical cord, and weigh and measure him. His nose and throat will be gently suctioned, and the nurse will clean and treat the umbilical cord stump and his tiny eyes, to prevent infections.
It’s unlikely that he’ll be bathed on the first day, as the vernix – that’s the milky-white residue from the birth – acts as a wonderful skin moisturiser.
Next, he’ll more than likely receive a vitamin K injection to control any possible bleeding in the brain. It’s also a routine procedure for newborns to be given Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccineto to prevent TB, as well as a dose of oral polio drops.
Then the nurses will put a nappy on him, place ID bands around his wrist and ankles (to ensure he’s not mixed up with other babies), and bundle him up in a warm blanket before you get to hold him.

What happens to me?

After natural birth

Soon after giving birth, you’ll have to deliver the placenta. It may happen easily, or it could take a little while.
Next, you’ll have an injection to help your uterus contract so that you don’t bleed excessively. According to US researchers, you may feel contractions after delivery. These contractions, which compress the blood vessels in the uterus to prevent excessive bleeding, can feel like menstrual cramps.
Pain can also arise from tearing during labour. But Cavim explains that the doctor should inspect and repair any lacerations which may have occurred. Soon after, you’ll be able to bond with your baby.

After a C-Section

After being cleaned and stitched, you’ll receive pain medication and will be monitored closely for the next 24 hours to ensure you don’t develop any complications. If you had an epidural during labour, you’ll most likely have a catheter for the rest of the day, and will still experience numbness in your legs for several hours until the anaesthetic wears off.
The nurses will then remove the catheter and get you up and walking.
In most hospitals, C-section patients are kept on a liquid diet for 12 – 24 hours. Your doctor will come around at least after labour to check on your progress. If you had a vaginal delivery, most medical aids tend to cover the first 48 hours, and for C-section patients, you’ll be covered for up to 72 hours.

Where will my baby be?

Most hospitals allow your baby to sleep in your room in the evenings. However, if you’ve had a late delivery and opt to take a sleeping tablet, the nurses will take over and look after your baby while you sleep.
But, you do have the right to ask to see your child whenever you want to, unless of course he’s in the neonatal ICU ward. “It’s natural to feel worried about your baby’s wellbeing during your hospital stay, but rest assured, the nurses on call have been trained to react quickly, should any complications arise,” says Cavim.

Taking care of your baby

It’s standard procedure for nurses to show you how to breastfeed, bath, hold, burp and change your baby during your hospital stay. If you’re still feeling a little nervous about caring for your little one, experts from the Nemours Center for Children’s health in the US suggest hiring a nurse or midwife to help you.

Visiting hours

In most private hospitals, visiting hours are fairly flexible for friends and family, but visitors are usually prohibited before 10am, as this is when doctors typically check on new mothers and their babies. However, “fathers can come and go as they please, and some can even stay over, depending on the hospital facilities,” says Cavim.

Your hospital discharge checklist

Once you’re ready to leave the hospital and begin your parenting journey, you’ll need to have:

  • A basic knowledge of how to feed, change and bath your baby
  • A list of contact numbers for your midwife, paediatrician and babycare clinic
  • Instructions on how to clean your baby’s umbilical cord, and a list of possible signs of infection to watch out for
  • An immunisation record, including a list of essential vaccinations your baby will need to have in the following weeks.

 

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