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After-birth care for you and your baby

You may have many questions about what happens at BC Women's after the birth of your baby.

 

 

Immediately after the birth

Immediately after the birth of your baby:

After your baby is born, the most important thing is for you to spend quiet time together as a family.

Your baby is placed skin-to-skin with you right after the birth.  You will have the chance to spend some quiet moments with your baby, cuddling and getting to know each other. Some moms and babies will need medical attention after the birth which may prevent this immediate skin-to-skin contact. We will do our best to start this as soon as it is possible.

  • Uninterrupted skin-to-skin care is encouraged for at least the first hour after the birth to keep your baby warm, help with breastfeeding and bonding. You can do this after a caesarean birth as well, as long as everything is well.
  • Babies usually start to breastfeed within the first hour as well. Keeping your baby skin-to-skin will help your baby have an early and strong start to breastfeeding.
  • The umbilical cord is clamped and cut after birth.  If mom and baby are well, we try to delay this for 1-2 minutes to increase the amount of blood going to baby from the placenta. Your partner or support person is welcome to cut the cord, if you wish. This won’t hurt your baby.
  • You may notice that your baby has some swelling or bruising or that their eyes look a little puffy. Some babies have a funny shaped head from the birth. Many babies have blue hands and feet.  All of these are normal and temporary for new babies.
  • Your nurse and midwife/doctor will be continuously checking you and your baby to make sure you are both well.
  •  After the first feeding, your baby will be weighed and measured. The midwife/doctor will do a full baby check-up at this time as well. We try to wait until your baby finishes feeding. 
  • Identification bands are attached to your baby’s wrist and ankle, and you will receive matching bands as well. 

There are a few routine procedures that are done with your permission shortly after birth. You can discuss these procedures with your doctor/midwife prior to birth.

  • Erythromycin eye ointment is given within the first hour after birth to prevent an eye infection caused by the sexually transmitted diseases, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.  Eye infections due to Chlamydia are one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. In Canada, this is extremely rare.
  • A vitamin K injection is given within 1-2 hours of life. Vitamin K is needed to help the blood clot and to prevent bleeding.   Without enough vitamin K, a baby is at risk of developing a rare disorder called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding, which can cause them to bleed into their brain. Breastfeeding and holding your baby skin-to-skin will help your baby cope with the discomfort of this and other minor procedures needed later.

You and your baby will normally remain together in the Delivery Suite for about two hours after your baby is born and then moved to a post-birth unit. Your baby stays warmer if you keep your baby skin-to-skin throughout your transfer. Your partner can also keep the baby skin-to-skin if needed. If you had your baby in the Single Room Maternity Care unit, you and your baby will stay there until you are ready to go home.

Babies who are premature or who have health concerns may be cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). If your baby is in the NICU, you can start expressing your breasts within the first hour after birth. Though you may not express drops of milk right away, you soon will.

During your hospital stay

During your hospital stay

Use your time in hospital to enjoy your new baby, learn how to care for them, rest and recover.

We strongly encourage you to have someone stay with you throughout your hospital stay. They can support you and help you to learn about caring for your new baby and yourself. This support person must bring their own pillow, bedding, towels and pajamas. 

Nurses will help you to learn about baby care and feeding, as well as the normal changes after birth for you and your baby.  Your midwife/doctor will see you every day while in hospital to answer questions and to check on how you and your baby are doing.

Caring for your baby

Your baby will stay in your room with you 24 hours a day unless he or she requires extra care. Keeping your baby with you, with lots of time for skin to skin contact will help you get to know your baby and help your milk to come in. We provide support and teaching for feeding your baby, with a focus on breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for your baby.  You will also receive information about BC Women's Milk Bank - the only one of its kind in Canada. 

Babies who are premature or who have health concerns may be cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). If your baby is in the NICU, you can start expressing your breasts within the first hour after birth. Though you may not express drops of milk right away, you soon will.  Try to express milk every 2-3 hours in order to  provide early milk to your baby and help get your milk supply established.  You can also ask your nurse about oral immune therapy (OIT) and Kangaroo Mother Care. Spend as much time as you can with your baby in the NICU. Your baby’s nurses will help you learn to care for your baby in the NICU.  Your baby needs your support to grow and thrive.

There are a few routine tests for babies during the first days after birth. You can discuss these tests with your doctor/midwife prior to birth.

  • The BC Newborn Screening Program uses a simple blood test to screen for 22 rare but treatable disorders. These tests will be done in your room and you will be encouraged to hold, feed and settle your baby during the test.
  • Most newborns have some yellowing of the skin, or jaundice.  This jaundice is usually mild and goes away on its own, but high levels can lead to problems.  Your baby will be tested for jaundice at the same time as the newborn screen.  This blood test will help you to know if your baby has a normal or high level of jaundice.
  • Newborn hearing screening is a routine health check offered for all babies after birth. A small number of babies are born with a hearing loss, which could affect their speech. Without screening, there are no obvious signs to tell early on if a baby has hearing loss.

We value the safety of your newborn after birth.  You can help to keep your baby safe in the following ways:

  • Ensure that your baby is with a responsible adult at all times.
  • Only let your baby leave your room with staff who have proper hospital photo identification. You can accompany the staff caring for your baby.  
  • Put your baby to sleep on their back in the provided bassinet.
  • When walking in the halls, please keep your baby in the bassinet.

Caring for yourself

Take the time to recover from the birth of your baby. Your nurses and doctor/midwife will be doing regular health checks to ensure that you are recovering well from your birth.  These health checks include:

  • Checking your heart rate and blood pressure
  • pushing gently on your tummy to check that your uterus is firm and contracting normally
  • looking at the stiches in your perineum/bottom (if you have them)
  • Looking at your caesarean wound (if you have one) to make sure it is healing well
  • helping you breastfeed and improve latching/positioning
  • checking how you are feeling emotionally

You can help us take care of you by:

  • Using the pain medications provided, if you need them.  Your nurse will teach you how to use the medications properly. 
  • Letting us know if your pain is still bothering you despite the usual medications.
  • Using the toilet regularly.  It is normal to feel a bit nervous about this.
  • Telling us when you feel nervous, worried or unsure.  We’re here to help!
  • Learning to take care of yourself and your baby

Preparing to go home

Most women are ready to go home  24-36 hours after giving birth vaginally, and 48-72 hours after giving birth by Caesarean Section (c-section).

Your time in hospital is a good chance to learn about caring for yourself and baby.  You will discuss the following things with your nurse and doctor/midwife before you go home.  We encourage you to learn about these prior to birth as well.

  • Comfortable positioning for breastfeeding
  • Recognising when baby is getting enough breast milk
  • Expressing breast milk either by hand or pump
  • If you have chosen to feed with infant formula, how to sterilise and make up bottles safely
  • Settling your baby when they cry
  • Baby care, including diaper changes and baths
  • How to take care of yourself
  • Normal mood changes and postpartum depression
  • Who to call and where to get help if you need it
  • When to see your midwife/doctor after going home
  • When to see your midwife/doctor after going home

There are a few practical things that you can do prior to birth to help prepare for going home from hospital.

Arrange a ride

  • Have a plan for how you will go home from the hospital. 
  • We suggest going home by car for your comfort and your baby’s comfort.
  • If you do not have a car, you can take a taxi or have a friend/family member drive you. 

Check your car seat

  • Babies are at greater risk in car accidents.
  • If you are going home from the hospital by car, you must bring a rear-facing car seat to the hospital for your baby to go home in.  
  • Please make sure that you know how to use and install your car seat to keep your baby safe. 
  • Please see the Transport Canada website for more information about car seats. 
  •  

 

Information after you go home

After you go home

The first two weeks are a combination of excitement and chaos.  There will be many adjustments to make and lots to learn. 

Families sometimes feel nervous and alone in caring for themselves and their baby, but there are many services available to support you at this time.  You are not alone.

The nurses at the hospital send your contact information and health information to the public health unit in your community.   If you are seeing a doctor for your pregnancy care, a public health nurse calls you soon after you get home to see how you are doing.  You are offered a visit at home or at a nearby public health unit to check on you and your baby. We encourage you to see the public health nurse to continue your health checks and learning.  If you are seeing a midwife for your pregnancy care, a public health nurse contacts you 6-8 weeks after the birth.

You should also plan to see the doctor/midwife caring for your baby within 5 days of going home.  If you have an obstetrician for your pregnancy care, you see your family doctor for baby care after you go home.  If you have a family doctor or midwife for your pregnancy care, you usually continue to see that person for baby care after you go home.  Some people choose to see their regular family doctor for baby care.

If you do not have a family doctor, please speak to your doctor/midwife during your pregnancy, so that they can arrange a family doctor for you and your family.  Having a long-term, trusting relationship with a family doctor has been shown to improve health for women, children and families.

For your baby

Please call your doctor/midwife if your baby:

  • has a fever of 37.5°C or more (underarm temperature)
  • is not interested in feeding or is too sleepy to feed 8 or more times a day
  • is not wetting their diaper at least 2 times per day in the first week, or 5 times per day after the first week.
  • doesn’t have at least one greenish brown stool during the first 3 days, or at least 2 dirty diapers after four days of age.
  • cries all the time and can’t be comforted.
  • has yellow skin color on the body, arms, legs, or in the whites of the eyes.

If your baby has a fever of 38*C (100*F) or more, call your doctor or midwife right away or go to the emergency department.

If you had a vaginal delivery

Please urgently call your doctor/midwife or the BC Women’s Hospital Assessment Room (604-875-3070) if you have:

  • bleeding that soaks through a pad in one hour
  • fever greater than 38˚C (100.4˚F)
  • severe pain in your vagina or perineum
  • fears of hurting yourself or your baby

Please call your doctor/midwife for a visit within 1-2 days, if you have:

  • bleeding that changes to bright red and is very heavy even when you are resting
  • clots (clumps of blood) larger than a loonie
  • fever less than 38˚C (100.4˚F) and chills  
  • difficulty passing urine (peeing)
  • dizziness or feel faint even when you are resting
  • sore nipples or breasts
  • pain in your vagina or perineum that is not getting better
  • feelings of sadness, anxiety

If you had a Caesarean section (C-section)

 Almost all caesarean births involve a cut in the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area.  Either stitches or staples will be used to close the cut, and these will be covered with a bandage. 

Your wound can be tender to touch for a few weeks. Before you are discharged from hospital, the doctor/midwife and nurses will discuss pain management with you. The pain usually gets better with each day but can increase if you do too much too soon. The area may feel numb for a number of months but this will fade and is not a problem. 

Please urgently call your doctor/midwife or the BC Women’s Hospital Assessment Room (604-875-3070) if you have:

  • A fever greater than 38°C/100.4°F
  • bleeding that soaks through a pad in one hour
  • severe pain around your c-section incision
  • fears of hurting yourself or your baby
  • Concerns about a C-section infection at night or on the weekend

Please call your doctor/midwife for a visit within 1-2 days, if you have:

  • Discharge or liquid coming out of incision
  • Incision that is opening up, red or swelling
  • Pain around your c-section incision that is getting worse
  • Fever (body temperature) less than 38°C or chills
  • bleeding that changes to bright red and is very heavy even when you are resting
  • clots (clumps of blood) larger than a loonie
  • difficulty passing urine (peeing)
  • dizziness or feel faint even when you are resting
  • sore nipples or breasts
  • feelings of sadness, anxiety

BC Women’s Hospital is pleased to offer a clinic that focuses on C-section infections. This clinic is staffed by a Nurse Practitioner (NP) with referral to an Obstetrician as needed.  If you are unable to see your doctor/midwife, you can make an appointment by calling the clinic at 604-875-2396.

It is important for us to know which of our patients had C-section infections after they left the hospital.  As a result, we ask your permission to contact you via email with a link to an online survey to find out information about your recovery.

 

 

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