How long you stay in hospital after the birth of your new bundle of joy will depend on what kind of birth you have, and whether the post-birth checks performed by the midwife come back OK.
Immediately after birth your baby will have an Apgar test, which is a quick way to assess your baby’s health. After a few hours, when your baby has had some time to adapt to life in the outside world, he or she will also have newborn checks by your midwife and doctor, making sure that all is well with his/her organs, eyes, hips, bottom and testicals (boys only of course!).
If anything of concern is found then your baby may require a longer stay in hospital, but for most babies this will be routine.
If you have a straightforward vaginal birth...
If everything goes smoothly with your labour and your baby is born vaginally there’s no need for an extended hospital stay; you and your baby should be able to go home and rest in a familiar environment within a few hours of the birth.
If you’re physically well enough to go home but feel you need more time to recuperate in hospital then talk to your midwife about your options.
If you have a caesarean birth...
If you have a caesarean birth you can expect a slightly longer stay in hospital. While you may be able to go home after 48 (or even 24) hours, you might need to spend around three or four days in hospital - it’s a pretty big operation after all!
It can take up to 12 hours after the birth to get the feeling back in your legs, so your midwife will check that you can walk to the bathroom and do a wee without a catheter before you are discharged. They’ll also check that you can eat and drink without being sick.
Before you go home…
Before you go home the midwife will check your pulse, temperature and blood pressure and make sure that you can have a wee. She will also check that your womb is contracting as it returns to its normal size and that, if you’re breastfeeding, your baby is able to latch on properly.
Your midwife will also let you know about signs and symptoms of complications to be aware of in you and your new baby, letting you know what’s normal, such as bleeding after birth (lochia), and what could be a sign that something is wrong, such as passing large blood clots.
Remember, your midwife isn’t just there to help you through labour, they also provide support and guidance on looking after your new baby. They can help you get started with breastfeeding, show you how to care for your baby’s umbilical cord stump and even how to bath your baby. They’re there to help, so ask them for anything you need.
After you go home…
Taking baby home, especially if it’s your first, can feel pretty daunting, but you will still have plenty of support.
You should receive a visit from your midwife in your first few days after bringing baby home, who will assess your baby’s health, weigh your newborn and give baby a heel prick test to check for rare conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and thyroid deficiency.
She will also check you are coping and recovering from the birth, and answer any questions that you have.