After labor and delivery, it’s common to experience a whirlwind of feelings like excitement, stress, and exhaustion. Although your focus may be on your new family, it’s important to remember that your health and your baby’s health are equally as important. You can expect to check in with your OB/GYN after your delivery to discuss a variety of potential complications, health concerns, and overall progress for both you and your baby. It can be helpful to have an idea of what to expect from this first postpartum visit, so here’s what to know.
On average, new mothers return for their postpartum checkup at around six weeks, but it can be scheduled anywhere from three to twelve weeks postpartum depending on your needs. For example, if your pregnancy was high-risk or there were complications during delivery, this may be sooner. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) generally recommends that you see your OB/GYN within three weeks of giving birth, which should include ongoing medical care during the postpartum period as needed, and any necessary appointments before and after.
What Happens During a Postpartum Visit?
Ideally, you may have several postpartum visits, which can serve many important purposes. Your OB/GYN can debrief about your delivery and any concerns you might have. This can be helpful if unexpected things came up like an emergency C-section or last-minute decisions. Your obstetrician can also guide you through the decision-making process and answer any questions about your delivery and your aftercare. Additionally, an important part of your postpartum visit is a “head-to-toe” exam as well as in-depth discussions about some important factors of your health.
A great way to prepare for your postpartum checkup is to bring a list of questions or concerns so that you do not forget anything. In addition to asking questions, your visit may also include the following.
Your postpartum visit can be very similar to your yearly gynecological exam, so it might include things like a pelvic exam to check your recovery process, as well as things like a Pap test or breast exam. It may also include taking your regular measurements for blood pressure, weight, and heart rate, for example. Your OB/GYN will spend significant time assessing your pelvic area to make sure your body is returning to its normal state, as well as checking your thyroid to assess your hormone levels. If you’ve been experiencing health complications like incontinence, hemorrhoids, or constipation, your OB/GYN can discuss these, too.
Pregnancy is a great way to predict your health later in life. For example, if you had gestational diabetes, your risk for developing diabetes in the future increases, and women with high blood pressure while pregnant may have a greater risk for heart disease. Thankfully, there are many actions that can be taken to reduce these risks when you work with your doctor.
Mental Health Screening
Postpartum depression is the most common complication after childbirth. Many women experience changes in their mental health with symptoms of depression or anxiety very soon after giving birth. Symptoms of postpartum depression often include feeling sad most of the time, crying a lot, sleeping too much or too little, worrying or feeling anxious, not having an interest in your baby, experiencing constant doubts in your ability to properly care for your baby, pulling away from family and friends and more.
The ACOG recommends screening both before and after labor, so your OB/GYN will ask you some screening questions and discuss any concerns you’ve been having. If you’re experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety or think you may be at risk for it, your OB/GYN can put you on a treatment regimen that works for you as soon as possible.
Breastfeeding, Exercise, Birth Control, and Sexuality
Your postpartum visit is also a great time to discuss topics regarding breastfeeding, exercise, birth control, and sexual intercourse. Your OB/GYN can make sure you have everything you need to successfully breastfeed, so you’ll likely discuss any concerns you’ve been having or be recommended resources to help. Additionally, your OB/GYN can give you the best idea of when you can return to your exercise regimen based on your recovery process. Women who have had a C-section often have to postpone exercise a bit longer than those who experienced vaginal birth.
Postpartum women have unique needs when it comes to birth control, so your OB/GYN can recommend the right option for you. If you were previously on a specific type of birth control, your OB/GYN can help you get started again or recommend a better option based on your postpartum health and whether you are breastfeeding. Options like IUDs can often be inserted at this time. It’s common for women to experience some sexual complications after giving birth which might include low libido or problems during intercourse so your OB/GYN can help you prepare for what to expect when you’re cleared to return to sexual activity.
This is also a great time to discuss any future pregnancy plans if applicable. A postpartum checkup is a great time for your doctor to get a sense of when you will want to try to get pregnant again. The safest time for most women who wish to conceive again is at least 18 months after the end of their pregnancy.
Schedule an Appointment
Your first postpartum visit is an important part of your health and wellness after having a baby, ensuring that you receive the support and care you need after delivery. To meet with our award-winning team and learn more about what to expect, we invite you to contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.
Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!