Your Baby:

What's Happening in the Postpartum Period

The first few minutes following birth can be a busy time. Your health care provider will quickly assess your baby. This measurement of the baby's overall health is called the Apgar Score, which is done at one minute and again at five minutes after birth. Your health care provider or nurse will score circulation, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes, and color to see if your baby needs extra help making the transition to the outside world.

Apgar Score Chart
  • 7 to 10 Good start
  • 4 to 6 Needs watching
  • 0 to 3 Needs help with transition

There are several other steps that are performed during the first few minutes after birth. Some of these are routine, regardless of the type of birth and birth location you've chosen. Others you may want to consider carefully with your partner and health care provider.

Cutting the umbilical cord.
Once the umbilical cord stops throbbing, the cord is cut using surgical scissors. Cutting does not cause any pain to your baby because there are no nerves in the cord. After about 10 to 14 days, the cord stump becomes blackish and falls off by itself.

Vitamin K injection. Because new babies do not have certain bacteria in their intestines until a few days after birth, they are unable to make their own vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for blood clotting. Some health care providers will recommend that your baby receive an injection of vitamin K shortly after birth as a safeguard against any problems. You and your partner have the right to refuse a vitamin K injection, but speak to your health care provider beforehand to learn the benefits and risks.

Eye ointment. Many states require that babies receive special antibiotic eye ointment, prescribed by your health care provider, immediately after birth; this helps prevent blindness if gonorrhea or other sexually transmitted infections are present in the birth canal. Eye ointment can blur a baby's vision for a short period of time. It can be applied after you have spent some time bonding with your infant. If you have any concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.

Blood sample.
Your health care provider will prick the baby's heel to obtain a sample of her blood. Many routine tests, such as those to determine blood type and Rh factor, are done right at birth.

Ask your health care provider about any newborn tests required by the state you live in, and learn what you may need to know about them.

Other routine measures include:

  • Your baby's temperature
  • Your baby's height and weight
  • The diameter of the largest part of the baby's head and chest
  • Footprints for identification purposes
  • Making sure your baby urinates and has a first bowel movement
  • Checking the condition of your baby's body, such as the ears, chest, breasts, shoulders, jaw and hips, bones, heart, lungs, and belly

Continue to "Early Discharge from Hospital" journey to parenthood

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Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 9/9/2010