Going from being pregnant to recovering from birth and caring for a newborn is a drastic change and it’s not unusual to feel out of your depth.
We take you through the support you can expect at the hospital after the birth, as well as at postnatal appointments with your midwife after you’ve come home.
The care you’ll receive just after giving birth will depend on if you have your baby at home, in a birth centre or in a labour ward. Take a look at our information on to see how your place of birth can affect the first hours and days with your new baby.
If you or your baby need ongoing care after the birth you’ll be admitted to a postnatal ward at a local hospital. You’ll probably need to stay at least one night at the hospital if you have:
Postnatal wards are located in maternity hospitals, often right next to the labour ward.
On the ward, you’ll be sharing a room and bathroom with other new mums and their babies. A team of midwives, nurses and doctors will look after you until you’re well enough to go home.
Your baby will always stay with you on the ward. The only exception is if they need extra care after the birth which can’t be provided on the postnatal ward, in which case they’ll be taken to the special care unit.
You may feel better staying on the postnatal ward if your birth partner is able to be there with you during the night, and most postnatal wards will let your partner stay if you want them to. However, some hospitals only allow partners to come during visiting hours.
You can check with your midwife what the policy is at your local hospital.
Postnatal wards can be very busy so some women prefer to pay for a private room, also known as an amenity room, to get as much rest and privacy as possible after the birth.
Not all NHS hospitals provide private postnatal rooms, and the cost can vary from £70 up to several hundred pounds per night.
Talk to your midwife about whether the hospital where you’re planning to give birth offers private rooms and what the price tag is if this is something you would like to consider.
While there’s no way of knowing how long you’ll have to stay on the postnatal ward in advance, you may find it comforting to know that most women don’t have to stay more than a couple of days.
Three quarters of new mums are able to go home within 48 hours of the birth and just one in ten stay for five days or more.
Source: 2017 maternity study by the Care Quality Commission.
Once you’re back home you’ll have appointments with your community midwife.
At each appointment, your community midwife will make sure that you’re recovering well from labour and birth, that your newborn baby is healthy and feeding as they should, and that you’re coping emotionally and have the support you need.
The appointments are a perfect opportunity to ask any questions you have about your health or that of your baby. You may find it helpful to write down any questions you think of between your appointments to make sure you don’t forget anything important.
Depending on the pregnancy, labour and delivery you had, in the days and weeks after birth your midwife will carry out various checks to see that your body is healing as expected and you don’t have any medical concerns. For example, your midwife can:
Pregnancy and birth are fraught with emotion and it’s very common for new parents to experience mental health problems. It’s important that you feel able to ask for help and your midwife is there to talk about how you’re feeling throughout this time and to make sure you get any support you need. Your midwife may:
Your baby’s first thorough physical examination will take place within 72 hours of the birth. If you’re on the postnatal ward, the examination is likely to take place before you’re discharged.
At every appointment after that, your midwife will check your baby over and ask you questions to make sure they’re healthy and developing well. Your midwife will:
You’re likely to have your first midwife visit the day after you’ve been discharged from hospital, come home from the birth centre or following a home birth.
After that, the number of times you’ll see your midwife depends on how well you and your baby are doing – more than half of women see a midwife three or four times after coming home.
Here’s a guide to the routine tests you’ll be offered for your baby in the first few days and weeks:
You’ll probably have your postnatal appointments in your own home, which can be really helpful in the early days when you’re sore, tired and trying to bond with your new baby. However, in some areas, postnatal appointments are held in clinics or children’s centres instead.
Once your midwife is happy with your recovery and your baby is gaining weight as expected, you’ll be discharged. This can happen as soon as 10 days after the birth, but it can also be any time up to 28 days after your baby was born – it all depends on your individual circumstances.
After you’ve been discharged, you can contact your GP or health visitor if you have any questions or concerns about your or your baby’s health.
Around six weeks after the birth, you should have the opportunity to have a postnatal appointment with your GP. In some areas, you’ll be sent an appointment automatically, while in others you need to contact the surgery yourself to set one up.
At the check-up, your GP may:
However, there isn’t a set list of things that your GP will check at the appointment, so it can be a good idea to bring along a list of questions if you have any concerns you want to raise. For example, some GPs don’t routinely check your stitches after a vaginal birth, so if you want your stitches checked you may have to bring this up yourself.
Your GP can also refer you on to other services if they’re not able to help you directly, for example counselling or physiotherapy treatment. Have a think before the appointment if there is anything that you feel you need more help with.
Birth recovery can be a long process. It’s not at all uncommon to still be recovering physically when you have your six-week GP appointment, especially if you had a or a complicated vaginal birth. Emotionally, too, you can start to feel the effects of a traumatic birth or the onset of postnatal depression long after your check-up.
You may want to seek help at a later point if:
It’s important to know that you can always schedule an appointment with your GP, however long it’s been since the birth, if you have any concerns at all about your physical or emotional health.
You can also talk to your health visitor about how you’re feeling, and they can let you know who to speak to for further help.
The RCOG says that women and their healthy babies should remain together immediately after the birth if they don't need critical care for either mother or newborn and encouraged to practice skin-to-skin/kangaroo care.
You'll be supported to make an informed decision about how you'll feed your baby and if you choose to breastfeed you'll be supported in this decision, even if you have probably or confirmed COVID-19.