After the baby comes (the postnatal period)
Your baby after the birth
Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth can help keep her or him warm and can help with getting breastfeeding started.
First feed, weight gain and nappies
Some babies feed immediately after birth and others take a little longer.
The midwives will help you whether you choose to:
A children's doctor (paediatrician), midwife or newborn (neonatal) nurse will check your baby is well, and will offer him or her a newborn physical examination within 72 hours of birth.
It's normal for babies to lose some weight in the first few days after birth. Putting on weight steadily after this is a sign your baby is healthy and feeding well.
Tests and checks for your baby
On day 5 to 8 after the birth, you'll be offered 2 screening tests for your baby:
If your baby is in special care, these tests will be done there. If your baby is at home, the tests will be done at your home by the community midwife team.
In the early days, the midwife will check your baby for signs of:
Safe sleeping for your baby
Make sure you know how to:
2 weeks and beyond
You don't need to give your baby a bath every day. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully instead.
Most babies will regain their birthweight in the first 2 weeks. Around this time their care will move from a midwife to a health visitor.
The health visitor will check your baby's growth and development at regular appointments, and record this in your baby's red book.
You after the birth
The maternity staff caring for you will check you're recovering well after the birth.
They will take your temperature, pulse and blood pressure.
They'll also feel your tummy (abdomen) to make sure your womb is shrinking back to its normal size.
Some women feel tummy pain when their womb shrinks, especially when they're breastfeeding. This is normal.
Seeing a midwife or health visitor
If you've given birth in hospital or a midwife unit and you and your baby are well, you'll probably be able to go home 6 to 24 hours after your baby is born.
Midwives will agree a plan with you for visits at home or at a children's centre until your baby is at least 10 days old. This is to check that you and your baby are well, and support you in these first few days.
Bleeding after the birth (postnatal bleeding)
You'll have bleeding (lochia) from your vagina for a few weeks after you give birth.
The bleeding usually stops by the time your baby is 12 weeks old.
Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you've got postnatal bleeding and any of these:
- a high temperature over 38C
- the bleeding smells unusual for you
- tummy pain that gets worse
- the bleeding gets heavier or doesn't get any less
- lumps (clots) in the blood
- pain between the vagina and anus (perineum) that gets worse
It could be a sign of infection.
Make sure you know the signs of a serious heavy bleed after giving birth (postpartum haemorrhage, or PPH). This is rare and needs emergency care.
Immediate action required: Call 999 if you've got postnatal bleeding and:
- the bleeding suddenly gets heavier
- you feel faint, dizzy or have a pounding heart
This could mean you're having a very heavy bleed (postpartum haemorrhage) and need emergency treatment.
Read more about how to tell if you need medical attention urgently after giving birth.
Feeding your baby
When you're breastfeeding in the early days, breastfeed your baby as often as they want. This may be every 2 hours.
Let your baby decide when they've had enough (this is called baby-led feeding).
Get answers to some common questions about bottle feeding.
Your baby's crying
Crying is your baby's way of telling you they need comfort and care. It can be hard to know what they need, especially in the early days.
There are ways you can soothe your crying baby.
How you feel
Find out how to cope if you feel stressed with the demands of a new baby. There are support services for new parents that may help.
You may feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is normal.
If these feelings start later or last for more than 2 weeks after giving birth, it could be a sign of postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression and anxiety are common, and there is treatment. Speak to your midwife, GP or health visitor as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed or anxious.
Sex and contraception
You can have sex as soon as you feel ready after having a baby.
There are no rules about when to have sex after giving birth. Every woman's physical and emotional changes are different.
You can get pregnant from 3 weeks (21 days) after giving birth. This can happen before you have a period, even if you're breastfeeding.
You need to start using contraception from 21 days after the birth every time you have sex if you don't want to get pregnant again.
Talk to your doctor, midwife or contraception (family planning) nurse about contraception after having a baby. They can arrange contraception before you have sex for the first time.
Being active may feel like a challenge when you're tired, but gentle exercise after childbirth can help your body recover and may help you feel more energetic.
You should also do your pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles around your bladder, vagina and anus.
Page last reviewed: 8 October 2018
Next review due: 8 October 2021