Fully developed and ready for birth, your baby will weigh somewhere between 6 and 9 pounds (2.7 and 4 kg) and will measure between 20 to 22 inches (51 to 56 cm) in length. When labor starts, your baby's body shifts gears to prepare for the journey. The fluid in the lungs is absorbed, airing out the lungs in preparation for breathing. The fetal hormones are on the rise to help maintain blood pressure and blood sugar levels after birth. It's show time!
Regardless of how much prep work you've done, you may not know what you're in for if this is your first baby. Right after birth, there are a number of things happening to you and your baby. In fact, those first 24 hours after delivery are full of activities you probably never thought about.
As soon as your baby has been delivered and the umbilical cord is cut, you have to deliver the placenta. This is what connected the baby to the uterus for oxygen, nutrients, and to get rid of wastes. It can take from a few minutes to a half hour as the placenta separates from the uterine wall. To help deliver the placenta, your health care provider may gently massage your lower abdomen. This helps encourage the uterus to contract, which closes off blood vessels and controls bleeding. If it still doesn't come out, you may also have to help push it out, and in some cases, your doctor or midwife might have to reach inside to remove it by hand. While the removal of the placenta may be painful, it is an important part of the postpartum process. Your provider will look at the placenta carefully once it is delivered to make sure it is normal.
Once the placenta is out, your provider will clean you up and repair any damage that was done - any tearing or an episiotomy. If you had an episiotomy, it will take 10 to 20 minutes to close and a little longer for bigger tears. If the first anesthetic has worn off, you may get an injection of local anesthetic to numb the area before the stitching starts. You may also be given ice packs to help reduce swelling and ease the pain.
After you are all cleaned up, you will be checked regularly and often, especially for the first 24 hours after delivery. Your uterus will be massaged, and you will be monitored for vaginal bleeding, infection, temperature and blood pressure. You will be encouraged to get up out of bed to help with your recovery.
In the meantime, you might be overwhelmed -- and that's normal. Your body has just gone through a dramatic event, and your nine-month odyssey is finally over. Allow yourself time to heal and know that you will feel a flurry of emotions -- ups, downs, good, bad, fear, excitement, and so on. The real adventure is just beginning!
Chances are you feel like an oversized elephant by now. You probably can't bend down to put on your shoes or get out of bed gracefully. Just when you think you can't stand being pregnant one day more, do something different. Many pregnant women we know find this an opportune time to treat themselves to a manicure and pedicure. It's a great pick-me-up that will make your hands and feet feel great and will take your mind off your body -- a welcome change.
Reviewed By: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.