The first 24 hours as a mum: An overview
It's a lot to take in becoming a mum for the first time, here's an overview of what to expect in the first 24 hours
Your physical condition
How you feel in the first 24 hours after birth varies significantly. Depending on how the birth went, you could feel anything from elated to exhausted and emotionally drained, and even all three of those emotions all at the same time! Your body has just done something amazing, so to feel this way is completely normal.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth you could be back home hours after having your baby. If you’ve had a caesarean section your experience may be different and you can expect to stay in hospital a bit longer. The average stay is 2-4 days, but if the medical team are happy you may be able to go home the day after your surgery.
All women lose some blood during and after delivery. Known as ‘lochia’, in short, this is very similar to a heavy period and you may also pass clots.
As well as bleeding, some women experience after birth pains as the uterus starts to contract. These can feel like mild to moderate period pain or like labour pains. Usually these feel stronger if you’ve already had your first child. To soothe the pains place a warm pack or hot water bottle on your stomach and if it is very bad you can ask your doctor or midwife for pain relief.
Your perineum (the area around your vagina) may be swollen after birth, but this method can help:
Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes every 2 to 4 hours
Compression (using firm-fitting underwear and maternity pads - change every hour or two)
Exercises (specifically pelvic floor exercises) increases the blood flow to the damaged tissue that helps to speed up the healing process.
You should wash this area after every visit to the toilet with plain warm water and gently pat dry using toilet paper. Also help soften your stools by eating plenty of fibre, drinking water and avoiding straining on the toilet. As well as this, ensure you’re replenishing your energy with fruit and vegetables and vitamins.
Your breasts will produce colostrum to feed your baby. Breast milk production for new mums can take over two days before it’s available. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t breastfeed immediately as it helps stimulate the production of milk and allows for early bonding.
If you have a caesarean you will physically need more help with everything after birth and for about a week. You should avoid picking up heavy objects although you should try and move around a little. In the 24 hours after surgery your midwife will remove your wound dressing to check for signs of infection (blood or pus coming from the incision or if it smells unpleasant).
Your baby’s condition
When your baby is born the paediatrician will perform health checks in the hospital, including a head to toe examination, a hearing screen and an injection of vitamin K will be offered. Your baby will also have a newborn blood spot test, also known as the heel prick test, this involves using a few drops of your baby’s blood to test for one of nine rare, but serious health conditions.
As well as the above, right before you leave the hospital your baby will receive a hearing test whereby they’ll put on a pair of headphones and an audiologist will monitor brain waves in response to sound. In some areas, this test is performed at home in the next few weeks. Your baby will also be weighted (this could have dropped since birth but don’t be alarmed that’s normal).
You may find that your baby looks discoloured however this is nothing to worry about, jaundice is a common occurrence in newborn babies. This results in a yellow tinge in the skin or whites of the eyes and typically comes to peak in the third to fifth day. Treatment usually happens within 24 to 48 hours.
How you might feel
You have just done something incredible by bringing your baby into the world so it’s normal to feel a bit emotional and worn out. Your body will be undergoing big changes so you do need to give yourself time to heal and recover.
You may start to feel a bit down if you’re milk supply isn’t coming immediately, however as we said it can take up to two days to start to produce so most likely will rectify itself in due course.
Even if this isn’t the case, your body will be dealing with fluctuating hormone levels as well as being sleep-deprived. This is referred to the ‘baby blues’ which usually fade within two weeks. Try not to let all of this get you down as you’ve gone through an amazing and long journey to get here so give yourself the time to adjust.
If you are feeling really low however don’t be shy to ask for help, speak to your partner, family, friends or your healthcare professional. The baby blues should naturally lift after a few days, but if you're still feeling low after the first few weeks do speak to your healthcare professional as you may have postnatal depression. There's lots of advice, support and treatment available and it's vital that you look after the whole you.
Remember in the first 24 hours you aren’t going to have everything sorted out, it can take anywhere from a few days to months to get your bearings.