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Birthing the placenta afterbirth

After your baby is born, your uterus (womb) can contract to push out the placenta (afterbirth).

There are 2 ways to do this. You can do it naturally or with medicine.

You can discuss both options with your midwife or obstetrician.

Birthing the placenta naturally

When you start to feel pressure, your midwife will check if there are signs that the placenta has separated. You can help the placenta to separate by starting to breastfeed.

When the placenta has separated, your midwife will encourage you to get into an upright position. The placenta usually comes out with a few gentle pushes from you. The cord is then clamped and cut after the placenta has delivered. This might be sooner if your baby is ill.

During a water birth, you can deliver the placenta in or outside the pool. It will depend on your situation.

Medicine to help birthing the placenta

Your midwife may offer you an injection of oxytocin if:

Oxytocin helps your womb to contract and prevents heavy bleeding. This speeds up birthing the placenta. Using oxytocin to help deliver the placenta is called 'active management'.

If you have a water birth, you must ask for the medicine. You will be asked to exit the pool for the delivery of the placenta.

Skin-to-skin contact after birth

You should have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after you give birth. Do this for at least 60 minutes. Your midwife and birthing team will support you and give you all the help you need.

In some cases, there may be medical reasons why you cannot hold your baby straight after birth. Your birth partner can do skin-to-skin contact until you are able to.

Your baby's first feed

Most healthy newborns will move towards your breast within the first hour of life. They will look for a breastfeed while in skin-to-skin contact. Your midwife will support you. Breastfeeding soon after birth will help your womb contract.

If you are formula feeding your baby, you will be able to do so with help from your midwife.

Page last reviewed: 4 January 2023
Next review due: 4 January 2026