Everyone always talks a lot about what labour is like and what to do once your baby is home.

But there’s not much said about the 24 hours or more you may end up spending in hospital after the birth.

I spent four nights in the recovery ward after having my first due to high blood pressure and breastfeeding issues.

I spent just one night with my second and I couldn’t wait to leave.

The problem isn’t the midwives and doctors – they’re all lovely – it’s just that it’s not home. You’ve just been through a major upheaval and you’re in an unfamiliar environment.

For anyone preparing to give birth, here’s a guide to what to expect during your stay at hospital.

Be armed with a good hospital bag

Have enough stuff to see you through labour and a one-night stay. Have a back up bag with extra things in the boot of your car. Check out my post about what to pack in your hospital bag.

It will be noisy

It’s a ward full of babies, of course they’re going to be crying at random times in the night. To be honest, some of your fellow mums might be crying too.

I also found that people who had just given birth arrived on the ward throughout the night at all hours. There was the clattering of curtain rails being drawn, mums being told what time breakfast would be and the sound of blood pressure cuffs being pumped up.

You will be woken up

It shocked me how difficult it was to get rest on what was called a recovery ward. The trouble is the medical staff have to do regular checks on both you and baby, and this includes the middle of the night.

There’s also no lie-ins here. You will be woken up for breakfast and another round of checks, such as blood pressure.

Then when it comes to nap time there are still frequent knock knocks at the curtain from people such as the Bounty representative, who will give you an awesome pack of freebies but will also try to sell you photographs, to breastfeeding experts.

I even had a researcher from a local university trying to sign people up for studies involving newborn babies.

Expect disruption every 90 minutes or so.

You will need to do your first wee in a pot and then show it to someone

The medics expect wee within a few hours of birth and they want to see it all, not just a sample! This is so they can measure how much wee you’re producing to check your bodily functions have survived the trauma.

They should give you a bedpan. Remember to use it so they can tick that box.

The first poo is scary but you’ll be ok

It may happen at home, but it may happen in hospital. The first poo after birth is impossible to explain properly unless you experienced it, but it is nerve-wracking.

For me giving birth felt like the baby was coming out of the back door, and I had stitches for a second degree tear. So that first poo brought back awful reminders of the birth, was painful where I was a bit battered and bruised, and made me worried about my stitches.

I was told to hold a damp, cool flannel over the wound and apply gentle pressure when pooing the first few days, as it just makes you feel a bit more “held together”. Drink lots of water and let it happen, it is best to get it over with.

The food isn’t fine dining but you need to eat it

Don’t turn your nose up at the food. I found myself wolfing down every meal I was so starving.

Eating will help build your strength back up, so try not to skip any meals, even if you just have some toast.

Your baby will have loads of checks

Now you’re not the only patient, there will be a lot of focus on your tiny newborn too.

There’s normally a hearing test, plus they check baby’s heart, spine, groin and head for any deformities.

Midwives will frequently ask you about how much baby is feeding and when. It’s a good idea to keep a record of this written down somewhere as you will forget.

Find out visiting hours

You may want to put off visits until you’re comfy at home but if you can’t wait then double check the visiting policy. Most wards limit the number of people you can have crowded around your bed at one time.

The midwives are there to help, but they won’t do it all for you

Getting the hang of breastfeeding is tough. When I was in the ward with both my babies, this was the number one thing that had mums calling for a midwife to come and help them.

Expect a lot of manhandling of your boobs, try not to be self-conscious even though it is a bit weird to have your nipples manipulated into your baby’s mouth by another person. They do it all day every day, remember.

Even though they are there 24/7, the midwives won’t do it all for you. They have lots of other patients to care for. I found they often answered my question then had to rush off quickly to fulfil other duties.

One of the purposes of being on the ward is to get used to your new baby, so take advantage of all the knowledge the midwives have and ask away.


For any expectant mums, I hope this has been useful. Is there anything else you would like to know? Do you have any suggestions for what to add to the guide?




Essential guide to staying in hospital after giving birth - what to expect in the 24 hours after labour

Essential guide to staying in hospital after giving birth - what to expect in the 24 hours after labour