We made it to part three! This is the best part!
Delivery and Cutting the Cord
When the baby comes out, the nurse will likely place them directly on your chest or if you have a shorter umbilical cord, on your abdomen. The baby will have some white stuff on it called vernix which is a thick almost cream cheese like coating they have in the womb to keep their skin protected from all the fluid they’re in. There will also probably be some blood on them. Birth is messy. But you won’t care because they’re finally here!
The vernix is actually a natural moisturizer so no need to even wipe it off, you can just rub it right into their skin over the next few hours. You might notice that your baby’s head has a slight cone shape to it. This is especially common if you push for a long time. Babies’ heads are still somewhat flexible because the bones in their skull haven’t fully fused together yet. This malleability allows their head to come through the birth canal but does leave some of them with a bit of a cone upon arrival. Not to worry, it will round out over the next couple of days. Some babies also come out looking a bit swollen and even bruised. Birth is hard work for us moms but it is also a tough journey for the babies!
Sometimes moms need a little extra help getting their babies earth-side. This is where you find instrumental deliveries which are what they call deliveries that need either forceps or a vacuum assist. These might be needed if a baby is in distress and needs to be delivered quickly or if a mom has been pushing for an extended period of time and the baby still hasn’t come out. There are probably a few other reasons but those are the main ones that are seen most often. I personally had a vacuum delivery after I had spent an extended period of time (about 4 hours) pushing.
My provider knew I was looking to avoid a C-section but the little man just would not come down any further and let’s face it, after hours of pushing I was exhausted. The vacuum delivery sounded scary but it went super smoothly. If you need this type of assisted delivery here’s what it might look like. The provider will hook a small little suction cup to the top of your baby’s head. Then you will push like you have been doing while the provider also applies some vacuum suction. It increases the force of the push by about 10% according to my doctor. Although my husband would tell you it seemed to do a lot more than that because he felt like he could really tell the baby was moving.
In a forceps delivery the doctor will use what look kind of like tongs, attach them to the sides of your baby’s head and again along with your push will apply some additional force to help work your baby out. My advice is to speak with your provider ahead of time about how often or when they use these instruments and which they tend to use more frequently so you can be prepared. If you do need this type of delivery, just stay calm and focus on doing your best to push that baby out, let the doctors manage the rest!
At some point after the baby is delivered the doctor will clamp the umbilical cord which stops the blood flow between the baby and the placenta. The cord is then cut. When this all happens can vary both based on hospital/doctor preferences or your own birth preferences. Many moms are opting for delayed cord clamping these days, meaning they’re choosing to wait several minutes until the cord turns completely white (no more blood) before clamping rather than doing it immediately after birth as used to be the norm. In regards to cutting the cord, the doctor can do this or many times the birth partner is offered the opportunity to do this. If your partner doesn’t want to cut it, there are also women who have chosen to cut it themselves.
The placenta is what has been keeping your baby growing and nourished these last 9 months. It’s actually an organ your body created once you got pregnant for just this purpose. But now that there is no more baby in your uterus, the placenta has done its job and must also come out. Our bodies are amazing right? I think a lot of people forget that the placenta must also be delivered.
You think, great I’m done, the baby is here! And then surprise you still have one more job to do. But good news! The placenta is MUCH easier to deliver than the baby. The placenta will detach and you’ll deliver it anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes after your baby is born. Your body’s contractions will do most of the work of getting it out although it may require a push or two from you as well. I did have to push twice to deliver mine but I did that while holding the baby, with much less effort than my baby birthing pushes.
After the placenta is delivered, if your doctor hasn’t clamped the umbilical cord yet they will do that and either they or your partner or even you will cut the cord. Some women keep their placenta and have it turned into capsules that they take during the postpartum period. If you plan to do this you definitely need to talk to your doctor and hospital about it beforehand because there are bound to be rules and regulations about storing it after birth and taking it home. I didn’t even see my placenta because I was so busy admiring my cute new baby boy.
This sounds much more pleasant than it is. After you’ve delivered, the doctor and nurses want to make sure your uterus continues to contract in order to stop any additional bleeding and prevent complications. They want to be sure your uterus starts tightening back up, and shrinking back down to its normal size and shape. This doesn’t happen immediately obviously but they’re watching for the signs that all is as it should be for the start of your recovery. They also need to monitor bleeding for the first few hours after birth and all of this is done via fundal massages.
Which is basically where they rub/push fairly aggressively on your uterus. Initially it’s every 15 minutes the first hour, then every 30 for the next hour then usually it spaces out to anywhere from every 4 to every 12 depending on your hospital and individual situation. While they do this, they’ll watch to see how much you’re bleeding as well as feel for the tone and shape of your uterus. I’m not going to lie…it’s unpleasant. That area is extremely sensitive after birth and you really don’t want someone pushing on it. But they are usually pretty quick, and after those first two hours you get a good break. I also found that the ones I had later on were not nearly as uncomfortable. My advice is use those pain management strategies you practiced for labor pains. I used my focused slow breathing and it definitely helped.
Whew! We’ve made it to postpartum. That was a lot and there were definitely some parts that felt nitty gritty right? I hope it helps you feel prepared. I hope you feel like you know a little bit more about what you might be about to experience but also know that birth is different for everyone and I couldn’t possibly cover all of the potential paths your birth may take. I loved giving birth! Even the parts that were gross or painful, I loved it! I had an experience that was completely different from what was on my birth plan, completely different than what I’d imagined but I still loved it and I hope you are able to feel that way about your upcoming birth as well.
Are there other parts of birth you’re wondering about that I didn’t cover? Ask in the comments and our mamas will be sure to answer!