Faulkner, who writes the Ask The Labor Nurse blog, also suggests using your room call button wisely. “Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your nurses and hospital staff, but consider asking for several things at once, such as ibuprofen, juice and breastfeeding help. Clustering requests lets nurses provide more focused, efficient care,” she says.
And if you decide to shower after you deliver, don’t do it alone. Postdelivery fainting is common and it happens most often in the shower because the hot water causes blood pressure to drop, says Faulkner. Use the shower bench and ask your partner, a friend or a nurse to watch over you.
The hospital staff will also be keeping a close eye on your newborn. Don’t be surprised if a wireless tracking device is attached to your baby’s ankle. “If your baby is taken too close to an exit, the doors will go into lockdown mode,” McKeever explains.
Many insurance plans cover a two-day hospital stay for a vaginal delivery and four days for a C-section. However long you stay, a few things are required before you leave:
A pediatrician will examine your baby and administer a heel-stick blood test, which screens for several metabolic disorders, such as phenylketonuria. Some states perform a hearing screening as well.
The staff will make sure that you’re healing properly—i.e., that your uterus is contracting and your bleeding is slowing. You’re likely to have heavy bleeding that lessens with each subsequent day, finally letting up in about six weeks.
They’ll determine that your baby is able to breastfeed or bottle-feed successfully and that you understand how to perform basic tasks such as bathing, caring for the cord stump and diapering.
You’ll need to fill out a birth certificate even if you haven’t named your baby yet.
If possible, have someone take home gifts and flowers the day before you leave so that your last day is less hectic, McKeever suggests. Also, make sure your vehicle is equipped with a properly installed car seat that you know how to use—you don’t want vexing straps and buckles to delay your happy homecoming.
—Christina Frank is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.