Maternity Ward Survival Guide

Maternity Ward

Many new moms spend a night or two in hospital. Here’s how to make it a positive experience for you and your baby.

You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how your baby will make his big entrance and what life will be like once you’ve brought him home. But have you considered what will happen in between those two events. If you have a normal, problem-free delivery, you and your newborn may be discharged from hospital as soon as six hours after giving birth. But many women face a stay on the postnatal ward to recover, or ensure both themselves and their babies are well enough to go home.

These wards are hectic places, which can mean it’s sometimes hard to make your needs known. Read on for tips on how to make it the best experience possible.

How To Manage Your Pain.
Regardless of your birth experience, you’re bound to be in some discomfort. You’ll be offered pain relief at regular intervals, so take it when it’s offereds. It’s far better to take painkillers little and often. If you wait until you’re struggling, it takes twice as many drugs to bring it back under control.” It can also help to pack DIY pain-relievers, such as the homeopathic remedy arnica, for bruising, and a cooling gel pad to ease perineal soreness If you’re worried about your pain levels or blood ring for a midwife. Pain and unusual bleeding are warning signs, so never feel you’re being a nuisance.

How To Get Some Sleep.
Sleep is hard to come by on a postnatal ward. Day and night, there are regular interruptions: women being brought in from the delivery suite, midwives doing checks, babies crying. “The key is to stop
trying to differentiate between day and night. If you’re tired, grab some sleep, even if it’s only 20 minutes. You never know when you’ll next have the chance. Taking props can help. Your own pillows will make the bed more comfortable, and an eye mask will shut out stimulation. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, counting slowly through each breath in and out. This will help you relax. If you’re concerned about losing sleep, you may be able to book a private room, called an amenity room. You will need to pay a fee, so ask about availability and pricing on your pre-baby hospital tour.

How To Organise Your Visitors.
Think twice before inviting everyone to a postnatal ward meet-and-greet. Women are usually on a high after giving birth, but after a couple of hours, exhaustion hits you. Also, having lots of visitors is unfair on the others on the ward and makes it difficult for the midwives to do their job. Most new moms only have a short stay, so postpone visitors other than immediate family until you’re home, and limit visits to 30 minutes. It’s your partner’s job to control the flow of visitors, somake sure he knows who you want to see. Also, make sure visitors are useful. Rather than just passing your baby over, give them a specific job, such as going to get you a sandwich or taking washing home for you.

Get Help With Breast Feeding
Support makes all the difference when you’re getting started. “But midwives are often overstretched, so you can’t always rely on them being able to teach you how to breastfeed. Beforehand, go to a workshop so you’re prepared. In hospital, keep your baby close: skin-to-skin contact will help. If possible, try to speak to the same midwife each time you need support. Take in the proper kit, too.  As well as a nursing pillow and nipple cream, download an app with step-by-step guides. Have the number of someone you trust to come in and help if the ward is too busy for one-to-one help.

Make Sure Your Well Fed.
It’s important to eat and drink well post-birth to restore your energy and fuel your body for breast feeding. Most hospitals have a kitchen where patients can make drinks and snacks, so you’re not left hungry between meals. Many women become constipated or windy after giving birth, particularly after a caesarean. For the first 24 hours, stick to light, simple foods that are easy todigest, like fruit, brown toast and yoghurt. If the hospital menu doesn’t appeal, ask your partner or visitors to bring in snacks.

Look After Your Newborn
You’ve never even changed a nappy before, and now you’re in charge of a newborn baby. Help! Going to antenatal classes is one of the best ways to prepare for basic baby care, but working out what to do is a matter of trial and error. Many tasks canwait until you’re home and being visited by a community midwife, who will have more time to spend with you. For example, we now advise against bathing babies within 24 hours of birth, to prevent them getting cold. That said, if your baby won’t stop crying or you don’t know where to start with that first meconium nappy, just ring and ask for help. If the midwives are run off their feet, ask a Health care Assistant. Although they are not medically qualified, they have ample experience in caring for babies and are usually not as frantically busy as the midwives. And don’t be shy about asking other mums on the ward for help, especially second- and third-timers.

How To Get Discharged.
Few women appreciate how much the midwife has to do before discharging you. “She has to inform your GP and community midwife that you’re leaving, enter the birth details on the register, check you’re well enough to leave, organise any medication, and give you advice on postnatal care and contraception. Your baby also has to be checked by a paediatrician or specialist midwife, and have a hearing test. In some cases, you can speed things along by offering to come back in a day or two to have your baby’s checks done. But sometimes the reverse occurs, the midwife says you’re ready to go home when you feel anything but. There’s always room for discussion, so talk to your midwife about your worries. But you’ll be visited by a community midwife soon after arriving home, and again over the next ten days until the health visitor takes over. Even at home, you’re not alone.

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