The day has FINALLY arrived! Your months-long countdown is finally coming to a close and whether you are early, late or just on time, the miracle of life is a wonderful experience. For first-time parents (and even seasoned professionals who have been through this many times before), the day of delivery can be a scary thought.
What do I need? What can I expect? Who will be there? What if something goes wrong?
The list of questions swirling around your head is not going to stop anytime soon (welcome to parenthood) and the good news is, you’re not alone.
The day of delivery is almost never what you had expected and there are countless variables that will play a role in determining what happens on the day of delivery. From your health to the baby and even small state or hospital policies will make a huge difference in your childbirth experience.
We have prepared a small list of topics to keep top of mind and help you prepare for the moment you have all been waiting for.
Average pregnancies last between 37-40 weeks. Labor contractions are likely your body’s clearest notification that your baby is on its way! While false contractions are a real thing, keep an eye out for the following.
- Repeat and consistent contractions, cramps or increases in pain levels.
- A slightly bloody, pink or clear vaginal discharge that is the mucus plug at the cervix.
- The breaking of your water! Remember it may not always be as cinematic as you anticipate.
As labor progresses, the contractions will become stronger and more frequent as delivery nears.
Time to Go To The Hospital?
By now, your doctor should have already prepared you with a plan in the event of labor. If not, no worries, give your doctor a call and head to the hospital if you have experienced the following.
- Water breaks (with or without contractions)
- Vaginal bleeding
- Severe and persistent pain even between contractions.
What About Being Induced?
For countless reasons, your doctor may choose to induce labor prior to it beginning naturally. Do not be alarmed as this does not mean something is wrong with you or the baby. Labor induction is typically done in the event that your health or the health of the baby may be at risk.
During induction, the doctor will likely administer medications such as oxytocin or prostaglandin through an IV. If your water has not broken yet, the doctor may intentionally rupture the membranes that surround the fetus to initiate the labor process.
While each and every delivery experience is different, we can share a bit more about what to expect following your child’s birth.
Immediately after your child is delivered, the doctors and nurses will likely place the baby on your chest for a few moments. At this point, the umbilical cord will still be attached to the placenta as your child establishes their own breathing. Eventually, the cord will be clamped and cut (no, the baby does not feel any pain). The clamp will remain on for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. The tiny piece remaining at the end will eventually dry up and fall off in the next few weeks.
Once the baby is settled, the nursing staff will then take the baby to dry them off and examine your child for any obvious signs of complications or abnormalities. The baby will also be given their Apgar scores (keep reading, more on this later) which will measure both appearance and responsiveness.
The rest of the experience may vary due to hospital policy and procedure. The baby is typically weighed, measured, and given a dose of Vitamin K (extremely important for clotting). The bay is also given Erythromycin Ointment (more on this below). From this point on, it is all about skin-to-skin cuddles, kisses, and working on feeding.
Having a C-Section? You are in good company! One in three mothers in the United States gives birth via C-Section. During the process, an incision is made directly into the mother’s abdomen and uterus, where the baby is directly removed.
C-Sections are performed for countless reasons but overall decisions are made to keep both mom and baby healthy prior to, during, and after pregnancy.
C-Sections are typically performed in under an hour and do not result in complications (although patient outcomes may vary). Due to the effects of the anesthesia, extra support and nursing staff are in the operating room to attend to both mom and baby. If you are awake, you may be able to see the baby as they are removed from the uterus, others may wait until they wake up from anesthesia.
It is common for some babies to appear a bit extra sleepy following exposure to anesthesia. Nothing to worry about, they will be crying and making noise in no time!
Seconds old and already being tested! Apgar scores are given at one minute and five minutes after birth. The test measures the following:
- Your Baby’s Heart Rate
- Muscle Tone
- Reflex Response
While the test is not designed to measure or predict your child’s future health, it can indicate their immediate response to life outside the room.
Each variable is given a score of two point for each of the five categories. We would encourage you to read more about the Apgar Scores and what they mean.
We have all seen those cute newborn photos with the goo on the baby’s eyes. That goo is called erythromycin ointment and it serves as a harmless barrier to prevent blindness as a result of sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia and gonorrhea). Both infections can progress rapidly in newborn’s eyes and cause major damage to the corneas.
Erythromycin ointment is almost 100% effective in the concerned preventing eye infections in newborns.
Vitamin K Shot
You think childbirth was a whirlwind of things to think about? Well, now that your bundle of joy has arrived, the real to do list begins. From initial examinations to Apgar Scores, weight, height and measurement, the baby is immediately cared for. While most newborns receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital, another routine is Vitamin K shots.
Vitamin K is a crucial nutrient in our bodies that makes blood clot. We need blood clots to stop bleeding and prevent further issues. Vitamin K also plays an important role in keeping our bones healthy as well.
When your child grows up, they will receive and absorb plenty of Vitamin K through green leafy vegetables, meat, dairy products, and eggs. Babies, on the other hand, are not born with adequate Vitamin K as they do not receive enough from the mother during pregnancy, and/or the baby’s intestines don’t have enough natural bacteria to produce it on their own.
Discharge! Time to go home
The time has arrived, your baby is here, your bags are packed and you are finally headed home (if only babies came with an instruction manual). Heading home can be equally exciting and overwhelming for both you and your baby. Leaving the hospital means saying goodbye to all the nurses and doctors who have done this thousands of times before. No more sending your baby to the nursery so you can get some rest, the real fun begins!
Nothing to worry about! For countless generations, parents like you have all bottled up those first-day jitters as reality sets in.
One way to ease those jittery feelings is to prepare ahead of time. Proactive preparation can give both you and your baby an easier sense of transition. From the car seat to the stroller and even bassinets or cribs, a safely prepared home makes for a lot less to worry about.
Another way to ease the transition is to have established a solid support system. From friends and family to your pediatrician, knowing that someone is on the other side of the phone can reduce anxiety tremendously.
Newborns are not easy and not all the same. Some cry when they are hungry and others are gassy or naturally poor sleepers. None of the above is always an indication that something is wrong with your baby. Be sure to communicate any comments, questions, or concerns with your child’s pediatrician.
Well, congratulations! You are officially a parent and the best times are ahead. Memories and traditions are plenty to look forward to. In the meantime, take a deep breath and relax! You are not alone in feeling worried or anxious about this next chapter of your lives.