Early days after you have your baby
The following information describes the care for you and your baby immediately following the birth and during the early days afterward.
In the first minutes following the birth your healthy baby will usually clear his/her own airways. The newborn baby should be dried with pre-warmed towels and held next to your skin and covered with a dry warm blanket.1
Following the birth of your baby, the doctor/midwife will be regularly assessing your baby's overall condition, including your baby's breathing, heart rate and colour and activity (tone) and temperature. At one and five minutes, a score, known as the 'Apgar score', is assigned to your baby to quantify this assessment. The highest Apgar score is 10.
The Apgar score is simply an indication of how well your baby has made the transition from intrauterine life to extrauterine life. The Apgar score is not used to guide the need for resuscitation, the amount of resuscitation or when to start various resuscitation measures. For example, if your baby requires assistance to clear his/her airways, your doctor/midwife will not wait for the Apgar score to be calculated before helping your baby.2
Although some babies will receive a low Apgar score at one minute, this does not necessarily mean that the baby will have ongoing problems.
Early contact between mother and baby after birth has important benefits for maternal behaviour, bonding, breastfeeding outcomes (both soon after birth and breastfeeding two to three months later) and infant crying.1 These benefits are not just for mothers planning to breastfeed. Because of this it is recommended that within 30 minutes of birth, mothers have skin contact with their babies for at least 30 minutes and are assisted by staff to initiate breastfeeding.
It is recommended that women not be separated from their baby after birth unless there is an unavoidable medical reason. If you intend to breastfeed, your baby should be left with you to breastfeed whenever he/she shows signs of readiness.
Vitamin K is essential to help the blood to clot. Babies and adults make their own Vitamin K from normal flora in the bowel, however babies may be deficient in vitamin K at birth. This deficiency of vitamin K can cause a rare condition called 'Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding' (VKDB). Although rare, VKDB may cause bleeding during the first weeks after birth.3
It is recommended that one dose of vitamin K given by injection to your baby soon after birth is the most reliable way to prevent VKDB. Alternatively, vitamin K can also be given in three doses by mouth over three weeks.3
In Australia, more than 95 per cent of newborn babies are given vitamin K by injection at birth. Of the remaining five per cent, most have three doses of vitamin K by mouth over three weeks.3
Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that affects the liver. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood and other body fluids such as saliva. If you have hepatitis B, your baby will be at very high risk of being infected at birth. In addition, your baby may be exposed to hepatitis B anytime after birth. To prevent this exposure resulting in infection, it is recommended your baby is immunised soon after birth and during infancy.4
Your doctor/midwife will discuss hepatitis B immunisation during your pregnancy or soon after the birth of your baby. If you choose to have your baby immunised, the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine will be given to your baby before you leave hospital. To complete the immunisation, another three doses of the vaccine are given in the first year of life.
Immunisation infoline (Tel: 1800 671 811)
The newborn screening test is routinely performed on all babies born in Victoria. It is carried out on a blood sample taken from your baby's heel between 48 and 72 hours after birth. The blood is examined to detect a number of rare, but important inherited conditions including phenylketonuria, congenital hypothyroidism, cystic fibrosis and twenty other metabolic conditions. Less than 0.1 per cent of babies tested are diagnosed with one of these conditions as a result of newborn screening, and early detection enables early and appropriate treatment for those babies.5
The hospital where your baby is born or the midwife responsible for your care will make sure you are offered the newborn screening test for your baby either during hospital stay or at home. Your verbal consent will be obtained before performing the test. If you decline the test for your baby, you will be required to sign a written statement that you understand the potential risks.5
Although most test results are usually available within two to three days of the sample arriving at the laboratory, 'normal' results are not communicated to the parents. This is because 98 per cent of results are normal. Parents of the two per cent of babies who require further tests will be contacted, for example, when tests need to be repeated (because there is insufficient/contaminated test sample or when results are borderline) or the result is clearly indicative of a disorder.5 The card with the blood sample is securely stored at Genetic Health Services, Victoria, according to government regulations.
After you have had your baby you will experience a number of physical and emotional changes. Some of these are normal and resolve on their own. Others may result in minor or more serious problems.
The following information is not exhaustive and provides a very brief overview of a few of the problems experienced in the early days after the birth of your baby.
Last updated: 2 September, 2010
This web site is managed and authorised by the Ambulance & Acute Programs Section of the Metropolitan Health and Aged Care Services Division of the Victorian State Government, Department of Health, Australia