Newborn Care Procedures
During your labor, you may be looking forward to holding and getting to know your baby. Depending on where you give birth, you may be surprised at the number of procedures that are done on your baby before he or she is handed to you. You have the right to delay or even decline any of these procedures, but only if you know what procedures are normally done at your hospital or birth center. Here are some of the most common:
The doctor may use a bulb syringe to suction any amniotic fluid from the nose and mouth as soon as the baby’s head emerges. Provided there is no meconium (baby’s first bowel movement) in the amniotic fluid, suctioning is not always necessary, especially before the baby has fully emerged.
Standard procedure in many hospitals is to clamp and cut the umbilical cord immediately after birth. This practice has recently been the object of some controversy, as it is believed doing so deprives the baby of a significant portion of blood supply, which could affect the baby’s iron levels and increase risk of anemia. However, if you have had any medication for pain or to stimulate your labor, immediate clamping limits how much of the medication is passed to your baby. Either way, you may want to do some additional research on your own.
Weight, Length, and APGAR scores
Very soon after birth, your baby will be weighed and measured. At one and five minutes after birth, an APGAR score from 0-10 will be given. This is a quick method of evaluating how well the baby is doing.
Antibiotic Eye Ointment
Certain STDs can cause blindness in newborns, so hospitals have adopted the practice of placing antibiotic eye ointment in the eyes of newborn babies, even those born to mothers who have tested negative for any STD. The antibiotic can impair the baby’s vision for a little while, as well as having potential side effects. If you have tested positive for any STD (and you will probably be tested as part of your prenatal care), you may want to go ahead and have the ointment. If not, you may wish to decline, though this may be difficult in some places. Discuss it with your doctor.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease that is spread through intercourse and infected blood or needles. If you are a carrier or are at risk of the disease, you should consider having your baby vaccinated. Otherwise, most newborn babies are not at risk for contracting the disease, so it is up to you whether you wish to do this or not. If not, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
When your baby is 24-48 hours old, a heel stick will be done to obtain a blood sample. This test is done to check for certain rare but serious metabolic disorders, including phenylketonuria. Phenylketonuria is the absence of a specific enzyme needed to convert phenylalanine to tyrosine. Without this enzyme, phenylalanine levels rise and can cause brain damage and other disabilities. Some of the conditions tested for don’t show up until after the baby is a day or so old, so if you go home before then, you may have to have the test done later.
Many hospitals have policies that include bathing baby soon after birth. Some families are choosing to delay the bath and massage in the vernix. Also, it can be difficult for new babies to regulate their body temperature, and a bath can cause it to drop.
These are just some of the more common newborn procedures. I skipped over such things as time in the nursery and circumcision as these are becoming less common. You may want to discuss with your doctor or midwife what you should expect after your baby’s birth.
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