The First 24 Hours After Labor: What To Expect

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So, you’re nearing your due date, you’ve packed the hospital bag, and you’re mentally preparing to give birth. By this time, you’ve probably done a lot of research about pregnancy and the postpartum period, from what to expect while giving birth to what items you should buy for your baby. But, it’s just as important to know what happens during the first 24 hours after labor, an often-overlooked timeframe, as there will be A LOT going on.

You May Shiver

You will be shivering a lot for the next few minutes to hours. This is not necessarily because you’re cold, but because your hormones are changing. It can also be due to a release of endorphins. You’ll be given a sheet or blanket to help you warm back up and feel secure.

You Need To Deliver The Placenta

For some women, the placenta slides right out a few minutes after the baby is born. For others, it can take up to an hour. Although the placenta is soft, you may experience some cramping while delivering it.

You Will Be Poked and Prodded

Once you’ve delivered your placenta you will be given some Pitocin, a form of oxytocin. This can be given as an injection on its own or mixed in with IV fluids. This is to help your uterus contract to a smaller size to reduce the amount you bleed out. If you can’t have Pitocin (or to speed things up) your healthcare provider or a nurse may do any of the following:

  1. Massage your uterus
  2. Stimulate your nipples
  3. Have your baby suck on your breast

Additionally, a doctor will check your vagina for tearing and give you stitches or fix a previous episiotomy. If you didn’t have an epidural, you might get an injection to numb you up.

Your Belly Won’t Immediately Go Back to Normal

It can take a few weeks for your belly to go back to the size it was, considering the amount of stretching it has done over the last nine months. If you had a C-section, it’s also common to have some swelling throughout your body because of all the IV fluids you received. After giving birth, you can drop 10 to 13 pounds from the weight of the baby, the placenta, and the amniotic fluid. But you will still be carrying a lot of water weight for the next 24 hours. It can sometimes take up to a week to lose all the water weight through peeing and sweating it out.

More Contractions, Bleeding, and Going To The Bathroom

Considering what your uterus just went through, there will be a lot going on down there for the next few hours to weeks. For starters, you will still be experiencing contractions after you have delivered. That’s because your uterus is starting to tighten and move back down to the pelvis, where it was before your pregnancy. You will feel it, even more, when you breastfeed. The good news? It will start to disappear in a week and will be completely gone by six weeks after you have delivered.

You will also notice vaginal discharge that consists of blood, mucus, and tissue from the lining of your uterus for the next three to ten days. This is completely normal — even blood clots are normal — and it will peter out just like your period does.

If you had anesthesia during your delivery, it can cause constipation. If you gave birth naturally or had a catheter, you could experience pain or discomfort while peeing. Load up on water and fiber to help!

Mood swings

While many will tell you that the day your baby arrives will be the happiest day of your life, don’t feel bad if you don’t feel that way. All the hormonal and physical changes can cause an impact on your mood, so you can experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows for a few hours or weeks after you have given birth. Be kind to yourself, as you just went through a great deal. Lean on your support system and rest as much as possible to get your mood back to normal. If it all feels too much, even after a couple of weeks, tell someone or get professional help.

In addition to all of the above, be prepared to stay in the hospital for two days if you give birth vaginally and four days if you give birth via C-section. Don’t be afraid to ask for all the help you need during this time — you just performed a miracle!

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