Birth can feel like the most unnatural natural body process out there, and the experience can be especially confusing for first time moms. As a Nurse at a Birthing Center, and a Birth Doula, there are a couple things that seem to be a surprise to new (and sometimes repeat) moms, postpartum.
- Uterine Massage
The health care team has to mash… I mean “massage” your uterus a LOT after birth to make sure your uterus doesn’t continue to bleed after your placenta is born. Though it is a small part of the postpartum experience, having someone pressing hard on your uterus after hours of labor is never a fun experience. Take deep breaths and let the medical team make sure you are okay. Trust me, you don’t want to bleed out, but if it becomes extremely uncomfortable or something feels wrong, please speak up and say something to your care provider!
- Birthing the Placenta
Yes mama, there is more to do after the baby is born. Healthcare providers like to see the birth of the placenta (preceded by a gush of blood and lengthening of the cord) within an hour of the baby’s birth. It comes out with a bit of coaxing, and usually some pushing on your end. The provider will make sure it all comes out. This is VERY important, if part of your placenta is left behind, it can lead to serious infection. It isn’t like the effort and sensation of birthing a baby, but will still be something you have to pay attention to! Again, if you have any questions or feel serious discomfort during the process, speak with your care provider!
- All the Changes “Down There”
Most moms expect to have new landscape below the belt after birth, but a few things come as a real surprise to first time moms. You may have stitches as a result of a tear or episiotomy (a cut made by your care provider during birth). The health care provider will inject a numbing solution into your tissues which numbs you before your repair (YAY), but also causes swelling, on top of the swelling that already is happening from pushing out your baby. Be prepared to not recognize yourself, and it may be tough to use the restroom around all of the swelling. A couple other things that could happen during birth in the “down there” area include a hematoma (swelling of clotted blood in the tissues, your healthcare provider will take care of this), as well as general soreness. Ice packs and postpartum herbal baths are your friends!
- Babies are learning to Breastfeed too
Babies are born with so many instincts that help them latch and feed successfully after birth. But, babies are new at breastfeeding too, and it will take a bit of time to get the hang of it. A great thing to do, especially if you are a first time “breastfeeder” is to surround yourself with breastfeeding moms. If you can learn from other examples and have a support group before birth it will set you up for success once your baby arrives. Check out your local Le Leche League for monthly meetings. Be patient, you will learn and your baby will too! If you are having continued problems, reaching out to a lactation consultant or your care provider is a good idea.
- Education is IMPORTANT
Yes, your body knows how to birth this baby, but it is wise to educate yourself about the process and be prepared beforehand for all that will happen in labor and birth. Taking the guess-work and confusion out of the stages of labor, cervical dilation and station of fetal descent, as well as what to expect in the newborn stage is very helpful for a lot of first time moms. Labor and birth can be overwhelming, and ultimately, you’ll probably feel the “I Can’t Do It” Moment, but the right education can remove a lot of the fear and confusion first time moms experience in the birth process.
Ultimately, birth can be intimidating to navigate by yourself. Have a birth community around you! Make sure you have a solid birth team in place who is ready to support you through it all, talk with other moms to see what surprised them during labor and birth, and read books and birth blogs (like this one!). Good luck with your new bundle of joy!