Your baby's first health exam happens just minutes after the birth. Here's how midwives and doctors will make sure you and your baby are thriving.
Once your baby is born, and you've said hello, chances are the midwives will whisk him or her across the room for a few moments. You might wonder what they're doing over there – the answer is, they're performing what will be the first of many basic health checks, just to make sure everything's going the way it ought to.
Here's a rundown of all the ways that doctors and midwives make sure you and your baby are healthy and thriving:
As soon as your baby is born, and again at five minutes after the birth, your midwife gives your new son or daughter what's called an Apgar score. This rates your baby in five areas: skin colour, heart rate, reflex response, muscle tone and breathing. Based on your baby's scores, the midwife will decide whether any extra help is needed to get your little one off to the best start. It's an easy test, though – in fact, you probably won't even notice it's being done.
A bit later, after you've had that first cuddle, your midwife will also record your baby's length, weight and head circumference, and take his or her temperature.
At some point in the first three days, a paediatrician or your midwife will have a closer, head-to-toe look at your baby to make sure everything's in good working order. This is a great time to ask any questions you have – most new parents have quite a few! The doctor will also probably ask you about your family medical history, so be sure to mention any health issues that run in the family.
Heel prick test
Around five to eight days after the birth, your midwife will take a tiny sample of blood from your baby's heel. (This is usually quite unpopular with both babies and new parents, but don't worry – it doesn't hurt for long, and a nice feed afterward helps to calm any crying.) The sample will be tested for a number of rare disorders, including PKU (phenylketonuria) and cystic fibrosis.
Once you're home and settled in with your new baby, you'll probably get a call from your health visitor. Health visitors are specially-qualified nurses who can help with any issues you might be having as a family. They are there to help look after everyone's well-being, so do talk to them about how you're feeling as well.
Within the first three months, you should be offered a newborn hearing test. This uses a small earpiece to transmit gentle sounds into your baby's ear and measure the inner ear's response, to make sure your baby's hearing is clear.
Postnatal check up
About 6-8 weeks after your baby’s birth, your GP will want to see you and your baby in order to make sure that you're both recovering well from the birth. In your case, this may involve checking your urine, blood pressure, and examining any stitches you may have. Your GP will also examine your baby to make sure everything's developing as expected. This is a great opportunity to ask any questions you've got, or raise any concerns you may have – it may help to write these down before going!
Baby clinic visits
In the first year of your baby's life, you'll probably visit your local baby clinic for regular baby weigh-ins and chats with your health visitor. It’s also a good place to meet other mums of young babies and to find out about local mother and baby groups. (Don't forget, you can also meet other mums and share your experiences on the HiPP Facebook page.)