profile picture of Bonnie Vengrow
Bonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer

What Happens Right After Baby Is Born?

What are all those procedures doctors and nurses do right after baby’s birth?

You probably watched a birth video at childbirth class. But it may have ended pretty quickly after the mom pushed out the baby. Here’s what happens next.

First breath
As long as there’s no meconium in baby’s trachea, he’ll fill his lungs with air within a few moments after delivery, at which point you’ll probably hear him cry. Don’t freak out if he doesn’t right away though. The pressure outside the lungs after birth makes many babies cry immediately, though others just start breathing sans cries.

If your newborn inhaled meconium or there’s a concern about his fetal heart rate, a neonatologist or pediatrician will move him to a bed and stabilize him. Once he’s in the clear, he’ll be given to you for some important skin-to-skin time. Doctors and nurses will continue to monitor his breathing after birth and offer oxygen if necessary.

Cutting the cord
Your OB will clamp the cord immediately after birth or within several minutes. Once the clamp is in place, the cord is cut by your doctor or birthing partner, leaving behind a stump (kind of gross, we know) that will dry up and fall off on its own after a couple weeks.

Meet and greet
At what point you can hold baby depends on a number of factors, including baby’s condition at birth, how you delivered and whether you’d like him cleaned up before you see him. If you delivered vaginally, baby is healthy and you want immediate skin-to-skin contact, your OB will lay baby on your bare chest or tummy right after delivery. He can stay there for most of the post-delivery routine that follows.

If you have a c-section, things will go a little differently, since your baby is more likely to have fluid in his lungs. “With most c-sections, baby is taken directly to the pediatrician to get cleaned off and resuscitated and then handed to mom,” explains Robert Atlas, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Family Childbirth and Children’s Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Apgar test
One minute and five minutes after your child is born, the OB will assess his post-delivery condition using the Apgar test. The doctor is looking at baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color, and will give each category a score of 0, 1 or 2. The highest score is a 10, and most babies receive at least a 7 at five minutes. Don’t read too much into the scores, warns Atlas. They’re a simple test of baby’s well being right now, and don’t always take factor in his health in utero. And they definitely don’t predict baby’s future health.

Baby’s vitals
A nurse will take baby’s official weight and measurements (head circumference and length), make a copy of his adorable handprints and footprints, and give him his first bath. Afterward, he’ll be dressed, swaddled and given ID bands around his ankle and wrist, so there’s no case of mistaken identity.

Preventative medicine
Within an hour of arrival, baby will be given a Vitamin K injection to help with coagulation. “It’s a measure to get the liver to do what it needs to do,” explains Atlas. A nurse will also put drops in his eyes to help prevent conjunctivitis (pinkeye). The hepatitis B vaccine usually comes a little later — within 12 hours of delivery or at an in-office appointment with the pediatrician.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Crazy Labor and Delivery Stories

Surprising Things That Happen After Delivery

The Facts About Postbirth Recovery