After vaginal delivery - in the hospital

Alternate Names

After vaginal birth

After Your Delivery

Most women will remain in the hospital for one night after the delivery. Take advantage of the time to bond with your new baby, get some rest, and receive some help with breastfeeding and caring for your baby.

What to Expect after Delivery

After the excitement of finally delivering and holding your baby, you may notice just how tired you are. 

At first you may be asked to only eat ice chips or take sips of water, at least until your health care provider is certain you are not likely to have any very heavy bleeding. 

You will remain in the room where you had your baby and a nurse will:

  • Monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount of vaginal bleeding
  • Check to make sure your uterus is becoming firmer 

If your baby did not need special care right away, you will be able to hold and admire your new child for a while.

  • At some point, your baby will be checked by someone from the nursery. Depending on the hospital where you deliver, this may be done in your room, or it may be done in the nursery.
  • Your spouse or partner can go along also, and even help wash the baby's hair for the first time. 

If you had an epidural, it may be left in for a short while after delivery to help with pain.

Contractions, Bleeding, and Pain

Once you deliver, the heavy contractions are over. But your uterus still needs to contract in order to shrink back towards its normal size and to prevent heavy bleeding. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus contract. These contractions maybe somewhat painful but are important. 

As your uterus becomes firmer and smaller, you are less likely to have heavier bleeding. Blood flow should gradually become slower during your first day. You may notice a few smaller clots passing when the nurse presses on your uterus to check it. 

For some women, the bleeding does not slow down or even becomes heavier. This may be caused by a small piece of placenta that remained in the lining of your uterus. Rarely a minor surgery is needed to remove it.

Care of the Vagina and Perineum

The area between the vagina and rectum is called the perineum. Even if you did not have a tear or an episiotomy, the area may be swollen and somewhat tender.

To relieve pain or discomfort:

  • Ask your nurses to apply ice packs right after the birth. Using ice packs in the first 24 hours after birth decreases the swelling and helps with the pain.
  • Take warm baths, but wait until 24 hours after you have given birth.
  • Take medications like ibuprofen to relieve pain.

Some women are worried about bowel movements after delivery. You may receive stool softeners.

Passing urine may hurt some during the first day, but this doesn’t usually last longer than a day or so.

Caring for Your Baby

Holding and caring for your new infant is exciting and makes up for the long journey of your pregnancy and the pain and discomfort of labor. Nurses and breastfeeding specialists are available to answer questions and help you. 

Keeping the baby in the room with you helps you to bond with your new family member. If the baby must go to the nursery for health reasons, take advantage of this time and rest as much as you can. Taking care of a newborn is a full time job and can be tiring.  

Some woman feel sad or an emotional letdown after delivery. These feelings are not uncommon and are nothing to feel ashamed of. Talk with your health care provider, nurses, and partner.


Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 9/19/2012
  • Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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