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When your baby is born – the second and third stage

second; third; stage; labour; perineum; crowning; vitamin; k; vernix; placenta; umbilical; cord; hepatitis; b; head; shape;


The second stage of labour - the birth of your baby

The second stage of labour starts when your cervix is fully dilated and you will usually soon have a strong urge to push because of the pressure your baby is placing on your pelvic area. This is the time to push your baby out.

  • For women having their first baby the second stage averages about 1–2 hours.
  • The second stage is usually shorter for women who are having their second or later baby.
  • This is only a guide and the birth may be shorter or longer than these times.

There are a few different positions you can be in for the delivery and you can learn about these during your antenatal classes.

As your baby's head descends, your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) begins to stretch (this often feels like a burning sensation) - this is when your baby's head is 'crowning'.

You may need an episiotomy (a cut through the perineum) when for some reason, related to your baby or you, the second stage needs to be shortened. Mostly this will not be known until you get to the second stage.

At the birth of your baby, you may like to help the midwife or doctor guide your baby onto your abdomen or chest so you can enjoy your first cuddle.

Your baby's umbilical cord will need to be cut. Perhaps your partner or support person may like to do this.

The third stage of labour

  • The third stage of labour, the separation and delivery of the placenta (the afterbirth), starts after the birth of your baby. In most cases, you will be given an injection that will help your placenta to separate from your uterus and control any bleeding.
  • Your placenta will be delivered once it has separated from your uterus. The midwife or doctor will usually assist this delivery by gently pulling on the section of the umbilical cord that is still attached to the placenta.
  • Rarely there are problems with separation of the placenta from the uterus and emergency treatment may be needed.

This is a good time for your first breastfeed.

  • The midwife will help you to position your baby and give you and your baby the help you need to start feeding.
  • After you have had some time together, you or your partner may like to help the midwife bath and weigh your baby.
  • Then, if your baby is warm and well, you and your baby will be transferred to the postnatal ward together.

If your baby needs special attention immediately after the birth, the staff will make sure that everything is explained to you.

  • Should your baby require special care in a neonatal unit, every effort is made to involve you in your baby's continuing care.

An injection of Vitamin K will be given to your baby at birth. All newborn babies have low levels of vitamin K. It is recommended that all babies are given vitamin K at birth to prevent a bleeding problem called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). Your midwife will discuss the importance of this with you. Have a look at the topic Vitamin K at Birth for more information.

Name bands

At some hospitals, two name bands with your baby’s name and file number will be placed around your baby’s ankles, at other hospitals you may find that one band will be placed around your baby’s ankle.

  • This is done at the time of the birth.
  • If you notice that a name band has come off, it is important to tell your midwife so that it can be replaced immediately.
  • In order to avoid confusion your baby is known by the mother’s surname while in hospital, regardless of the name under which he or she is to be registered.

Your new baby

A newborn baby can look quite different from what you may expect.

  • The baby's skin may be bluish and coated with a creamy substance called vernix, especially in the creases. There also may be some blood on its body.
  • The head is the largest part of the baby, and this may look oddly shaped depending on the length of your labour, and how the baby's head changed shape to fit through your pelvis.
  • Not all babies cry loudly at birth.
  • Your baby may be wide-eyed, quiet and alert, or sleepy or unsettled.

The birth process and the drugs you were given during labour and birth may affect your baby's behaviour.

Rooming in with your baby

Rooming in means your baby stays with you in your room at all times. This gives you and your family the opportunity to learn about, and bond with, your baby before going home.

During your stay in hospital, midwives provide you with information and support in caring for your baby and in feeding and settling techniques.

  • They can show you how to bath your baby, change nappies, breast or bottle-feed and settle your baby. This will help you to feel more confident in caring for and feeding your new baby.
  • They will also discuss with you how to care for yourself.

Tests and immunisation for your baby

A Hepatitis B vaccination is offered to all babies before they leave hospital, and it is recommended that your baby have this injection. Hepatitis B vaccination is a very safe and effective way of protecting a baby against this serious infection.

When your baby is about 48 hours old a blood test is done to look for several different health problems. Blood is obtained from a baby's heel, and the test is often called the 'heel prick test'. There is more information about this in the topic 'Blood tests for your newborn baby - Newborn screening test'.

In Australia, before you go home, your baby can also have a hearing test . This checks that your baby can hear the sounds needed to learn to talk. Have a look at the topic 'Your baby's new-born hearing screening'.

How long will you stay in hospital?

The length of stay in hospital after having a baby varies.

  • For most mothers this is about 3 days following a vaginal delivery and 5-7 days following a Caesarean section.
  • If you are planning an early discharge (less than 24 hours after the birth) you should discuss this with your midwife or doctor during your pregnancy.
  • Your hospital may have home visiting midwifes who make follow up visits to you and your baby once you are home.

More to read

 Pregnancy, birth and baby Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a national Australian Government service providing support and information for expecting parents and parents of children, from birth to 5 years of age. 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.


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