The main event of pregnancy is labor and delivery. However, postpartum care is just as important as every other stage! The importance of postpartum care can’t be understated, with your postpartum checkup being a key milestone on the path to proper healing.
What Is a Postpartum Checkup?
A postpartum checkup is a routine check-in with your healthcare provider to ensure that you’re recovering properly after labor and delivery. Even if you’re feeling well, you should go to your postpartum checkup for a thorough examination by your healthcare provider.
Also known as the fourth trimester, the period of time after having your baby can bring on physical and mental health complications ranging from mild to severe. Many women may even die as a result of unresolved issues that may have been solved by thorough postpartum care.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), postpartum care should last for more than four to six weeks. It should be ongoing and could look something like this:
- Staying in close contact with your health care provider for three weeks after delivery
- Seeking ongoing medical care as needed
- Receiving a complete checkup within 12 weeks of delivery
After having your baby, you’ll experience a lot of new changes and discomforts in your body. Many of these are normal! Sometimes, though, they’re indicative of something bigger and more dangerous that should be treated. This is why seeing your healthcare provider is so important; they’ll be more likely to spot the signs and be able to prevent serious medical issues.
Any new mother should seek postpartum care, especially mothers who experience the loss of their child. If you experience a loss like this, engaging in postpartum care could help your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor look into the reasons behind your loss. They might be able to tell you if you’re at risk for future loss, birth defects, medical conditions, and how your and your future children’s health may be affected.
It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of events that happen after birth, but you should take your care seriously. Ask your healthcare provider any postpartum checkup questions you have and seek advice on how you can best set yourself up for healthy motherhood.
You’re not alone! It’s common to experience fatigue, pain, anxiety, and other concerning symptoms. Don’t shy away from asking for professional help.
Why Do You Need a Postpartum Checkup?
Postpartum care guidelines are important to learn about for your emotional and physical health. They can be the key to diagnosing any combination of the following:
- Challenges with feeding your baby or other aspects of caring for your baby
- Trouble sleeping
- Extreme tiredness
- Painful urination
- Leaking urine
- Severe gas
- Lack of emotional support
- Inability to meet basic needs, like providing food or diapers
Don’t underestimate the effect that postpartum anxiety and depression can have on you. Be open about any feelings that are out of the norm for you, whether they last a few days or longer. The longer they last, the more likely it is that you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder that should be addressed professionally.
This is also the time to discuss your sexual health. Your healthcare provider should be able to offer guidance regarding:
- When it’s safe for you to have sex again
- Any pain you have when having sex
- A lack of interest in sexual activity
- What kind of birth control, if any, is best for you
- Timing or interest in future pregnancies
Postpartum Checkup: What to Expect
At your postpartum checkup, what to expect can vary depending on your pregnancy, labor, delivery, and other variables. Generally, your healthcare provider will want to make sure you’re recovering well and adjusting to motherhood by using any combination of the following tests:
- Checking your blood pressure
- Checking your weight
- Checking your breasts and belly
- Performing a pelvic exam
- Checking on conditions you had during pregnancy, like high blood pressure or diabetes
- Updating your vaccinations to protect your baby
- Talking to you about your experience as a new mom
Your postpartum “checkup” should turn into an ongoing postpartum care plan. During the first few weeks after delivery, you might have a phone or virtual visit with your healthcare provider to check in, especially if you had high blood pressure during your pregnancy or a C-section at birth. Between three and eight weeks postpartum, you should get a comprehensive checkup to look into:
- C-section pain
- If you’re ready to resume physical activity
- Blood sugar tests
- Pap tests
- Your diet
- Managing challenges of new motherhood
Don’t limit yourself to just one or two meetings with your healthcare provider after giving birth. Keep the door open for more checkups if you or your provider feel like you’d benefit from them. Before you book multiple appointments, however, you should reach out to your insurance provider to find out how many checkups will be covered.
Care for Yourself
Trust in your healthcare provider to guide you during the postpartum process. They’re professionally trained to care for women like yourself. The earlier you allow them to help you, the better you’ll be able to heal.
Once you’re in the clear from a postpartum perspective, you should stay vigilant about visiting your OBGYN. Routine visits with this specialist will ensure that you get help with ongoing issues and that you have a better chance of preventing future health challenges.