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HEALTHY NEWBORN :: Baby's Care After Birth

Baby's Care in the Delivery Room

Picture of a newborn

The birth of a baby is one of life's most wondrous moments. Few experiences can compare with this event. Newborn babies have amazing abilities, yet they are completely dependent on others for every aspect - feeding, warmth, and comfort.

Amazing physical changes occur with birth. When the baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped near the navel. This ends the baby's dependence on the placenta for oxygen and nutrition. As the baby takes the first breath, air moves into the lung airways. Before birth, the lungs are not used to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, and need less blood supply. The fetal circulation sends most of the blood supply away from the lungs through special connections in the heart and the large blood vessels. When a baby begins to breathe air at birth, the change in pressure in the lungs helps close the fetal connections and redirect the blood flow. Now, blood is pumped to the lungs to help with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Some babies have excess amounts of fluid in their lungs. Stimulating the baby to cry by massage and stroking the skin can help bring the fluid up where it can be suctioned from the nose and mouth.

Providing warmth for the newborn:

A newborn baby is wet from the amniotic fluid and can easily become cold. Drying the baby and using warm blankets and heat lamps can help prevent heat loss. Often a knitted hat is placed on the baby's head. Placing a baby skin-to-skin on the mother's chest or abdomen also helps keep the baby warm.

Immediate care for the newborn:

Health assessments of the new baby begin immediately. One of the first checks is the Apgar test. The Apgar test is a scoring system designed by Dr. Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist, to evaluate the condition of the newborn at one minute and five minutes after birth. The physician and nurses will evaluate the following signs and assign a point value:

A Activity; muscle tone
P Pulse rate
G Grimace; reflex irritability
A Appearance; skin color
R Respiration

A score of seven to 10 is considered normal. A score of four to six may indicate that the baby needs some resuscitation measures (oxygen) and careful monitoring. A score of 3 or below indicates that the baby requires immediate resuscitation and lifesaving techniques.

Physical examination of the newborn:

A brief physical examination is performed to check for obvious signs that the baby is healthy. Other necessary procedures will be done over the next few minutes and hours. These may be done in the delivery room or in the nursery, depending on several factors, including the condition of the baby. Some of these procedures include the following:

  • temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate
  • measurements of weight, length, head circumference
    These measurements help determine if a baby's weight and measurements are normal for the number of weeks of pregnancy. Small or underweight babies as well as very large babies may need special attention and care.
  • cord care
    Cleansing of the umbilical cord stump may include treatment with a purple antiseptic dye which helps prevent infection.
  • bath
    Once a baby's temperature has stabilized, the first bath can be given.
  • footprints
    Footprints are often taken and recorded in the medical record.

Before a baby leaves the delivery area, identification bracelets with identical numbers are placed on the baby and mother. Babies often have two, on the wrist and ankle. These should be checked each time the baby comes or goes from your room.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.
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