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7 Common Newborn Procedures in a Hospital Birth

In the United States, 98% of women give birth in a hospital. If you are one of the 98% and you are planning on birthing in a hospital, I’d like to give you some additional insight into what newborn procedures can look like in most American hospitals.


Bulb Suctioning:

Immediately after birth, your baby will be placed on your chest. It is possible that the baby's airways may contain amniotic fluids with or without meconium. Your care provider will usually observe the baby's breathing and if needed, they will insert a rubber-ish bulb syringe into the baby’s nostrils and mouth to help clear it. If you are looking for a less interrupted birthing experience you can decline this procedure if you choose. Oftentimes mamas and their care providers will agree to only suction if necessary.


Umbilical Cord Clamping:

After the baby is laid on your chest the umbilical cord is clamped. You, your partner, or a support person can cut the umbilical cord. Don’t fret though! A nurse will show you exactly where to snip. Studies have shown that delayed cord clamping benefits the baby in many ways, here are a few:

  • The baby continues to receive oxygen from the blood until it stops pulsating.

  • Increased volume of blood circulating to the baby’s lungs gives optimal respiration.

  • Baby’s iron increases as much as 45% and anemia is less likely to occur for as long as six months.

*As of recent years, and depending on your care provider, delayed cord clamping is becoming a common practice.


Erythromycin:

Erythromycin eye ointment is an antibiotic placed in the baby’s eyes within the first hour or so of birth. It is commonly used after birth to prevent infection caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia, two common sexually transmitted diseases. You can decline this procedure if you choose although since many states hold the care provider responsible if the treatment is not given, you will be asked to sign a waiver saying you wish to decline this procedure. The only disadvantage of the eye ointment is the baby’s vision will be blurred for a short time until their body heat melts the ointment.


APGAR:

Most of us have heard about that infamous APGAR test all infants do, but what exactly is it?! It’s a simple test that is given to the baby at 1 minute old and again at 5 minutes old. For this test, they observe the baby’s Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. If the care provider notices any concerns, they will be corrected following the 5-minute mark.


Measurements:

Soon your baby will even be weighed and length will be taken. This is how we know exactly how big your baby is and it’s also part of the exciting information you get to disclose with your friends and family!


Vitamin K Injection:

A vitamin K injection is given to help the baby clot their blood. For about the first week after birth newborns are relatively slow in clotting their blood. Once they begin consuming colostrum and milk they will begin to make their own vitamin K. Until then, giving them vitamin K will reduce the risk of bleeding problems (called vitamin K deficiency bleeding, or VKDB). The injection is given once in the thigh within an hour after birth. The only disadvantage of the vitamin K shot is that it is briefly painful.


Newborn Screening:

The baby will undergo two blood tests a day or two after birth. One is a heel prick that will check for the baby's levels such as glucose, bilirubin, numerous genetic disorders, and a few more. The second is from the baby’s umbilical cord to check for their blood type and RH determination.


There are additional procedures that I did not discuss, but encourage you to look into:

  • Circumcision

  • Hep B Vaccine

  • Swaddling and hat placement

  • Baby’s first bath

I know this may seem like a lot but in reality, these procedures are done effectively and in a timely manner. Having a baby is exciting but it can also be nerve-wracking if you don’t know what to expect. My goal is that this information should be a jumping-off point for you to explore these procedures in more detail and see what feels right to you.


If you have concerns about anything, talk to your care provider (possibly even your doula) and ask all the questions. That’s exactly what we are here for! You've got this, Mama! And as always, remember that nothing outside of you has power over you.


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