The first few hours after the delivery are a very special time for the mother, baby and father. This can be a time to establish bonding with the baby and try to persuade him to get on the breast and relax and recover from delivery. It can be really nice to have some quiet time without being disturbed by doctors, midwives and visitors. You need some time to recover from rigours of childbirth. It is important to note that if your baby has to stay in the neo natal unit then although you will not be together for the first few minutes, hours or even days, long term bonding will not be affected.
Some women want to sleep and some get a surge of adrenaline and find the whole experience so exhilarating that they are unable to sleep. This is a time for careful observation of the baby’s condition and mother’s condition. There can be excessive bleeding, which your midwife will be looking out for and there will be some routine observations of pulse, blood pressure and temperature to look for early signs of complications. In addition it is important that the bladder is kept empty, especially if there has been an epidural or a prolonged and difficult labour.
When mother and baby are stable they are transferred to post natal ward. On the NHS you will most likely be sharing with 3 or 5 other mothers and babies and their families. When you are fit for discharge there will be quite a lot of paper work and hopefully some safe and sensible drugs to take home with you- such as some simple painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine, maybe iron tablets and antibiotics depending on mode of delivery and if there have been any complications.
The length of stay in hospital will depend on individual circumstances, the mode of delivery and the health of mother and baby. Sometimes the maternity wards can be extremely busy and a little bit chaotic and most women are pleased to get out as soon as possible. They are however a secure environment where mothers and babies can sleep and rest and concentrate on recovering from childbirth and getting the baby on the breast if you are choosing to breastfeed.
For some women, especially first time mothers, the post-natal period can be a very difficult time. You may have sore bottom, vagina or tummy, have missed out on 3 nights sleep, have a baby that doesn’t sleep and will not latch on to the breast, giant and uncomfortable breasts that feel like they are about to explode and a husband who has gone drinking with his mates! You may or may not have the benefit of an extended family or someone to help at home. Many women find the post-natal period more difficult than the actual delivery or ante-natal period. There is no substitute for good support and lots of sleep and a relaxed and quiet environment with no excessive demands on the mother. This is the time to call on friends or relatives to help you out if you are desperate for some sleep (which is likely!) or just want to snatch a little time to wash your hair or do some cooking.