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Giving birth - third stage of labour

3-minute read

The third stage of labour is after the birth of your child. This is when the placenta is delivered and you are able to start to bond with your baby.

After your baby is born, the midwife may pull on the umbilical cord to deliver the placenta, and may ask you to help by gently pushing.

You may be offered an injection in your thigh just as the baby is born, to speed up the delivery of the placenta. The injection contains a drug called syntocinon (a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin), which makes the womb contract and helps to prevent heavy bleeding known as ‘postpartum haemorrhage‘.

The doctor or midwife will feel to make sure that your uterus is well contracted, take your blood pressure and pulse, and check if you need any stitches.

After the birth

Your baby will like being close to you just after the birth. Skin-to-skin contact is best, as it provides warmth for your baby and encourages them to have their first feed. The time alone with your partner and your baby can be very special. Your baby will be examined by a midwife or doctor and then weighed, and possibly measured, and given identity bands with your name on it.

Let your baby breastfeed as soon after birth as possible. It helps with breastfeeding later on and it also helps your womb to contract. Babies start sucking immediately, although maybe just for a short time. They may just like to feel the nipple in their mouth.

Vitamin K

You'll be offered an injection of vitamin K for your baby, which is the most effective way of helping to prevent a rare bleeding disorder (known as 'haemorrhagic disease of the newborn'). Your midwife will have discussed this with you beforehand and sought your consent.

If you prefer that your baby doesn't have an injection, oral doses of vitamin K are available. The oral doses are given in 3 stages over a 4-week period.

Read more about vitamin K.

Stitches

Small tears and grazes are often left to heal without stitches because they often heal better this way. If you need stitches or other treatments, it should be possible to continue cuddling your baby. Your midwife will help with this as much as they can.

If you have had a large tear or an episiotomy, you will need stitches. If you have already had an epidural, it can be topped up. If you haven't, you should be offered a local anaesthetic injection.

The midwife or maternity support worker will help you to wash and freshen up before leaving the labour ward to go home or to the postnatal area.

Going home

Most women stay in hospital for 1 or 2 days after they have given birth, although if you’ve had an uncomplicated vaginal birth and your baby is doing well, you can sometimes go home as soon as 6 hours after the birth. If you have had a caesarean, expect to stay in hospital for 3 to 4 days.

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Last reviewed: September 2019


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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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