06 Feb Questions to Ask at Your Postpartum Checkup
What happens at Postpartum Checkups?
Hey Mama! After you give birth to your baby, you might be wondering how many postpartum checkups you’ll have. All mothers will have an initial checkup 1-3 days after giving birth. You will have a bedside visit from your provider if you gave birth at a hospital. If you gave birth at home or in a birth center, your provider will visit you at home. This initial checkup will involve a vaginal exam to check for tears, bruising, and that your uterus is returning to a normal size. If you had a cesarean section, you’ll have another check up 2 weeks postpartum to make sure your incision is healing well and there are no signs of infection. Click here for more information on postpartum physical recovery.
All new mothers should have a 6-week postpartum check up. Your provider will do another physical examination, checking your: vital signs, weight, breasts, uterus, vagina and any healing incisions related to a c-section or episiotomy. Hopefully, in the last 6 weeks, you’ve taken the time you needed to rest after the birth (the 5-5-5 rule is a great tip!). And, you’ve avoided intercourse (or any penetration of the vagina) until your bleeding (lochia) has stopped. This is because lochia is a sign that you still have a healing wound inside your uterus where the placenta was attached. Penetration before this wound is healed can lead to infection. Read more about when it’s safe to resume having sex.
Questions to Ask at Your 6 Week Postpartum Checkup
When it’s time for your 6 week check-up, your body will have already healed quite a bit, but new issues may have developed. Here are some questions to think about in preparation for your appointment:
- Review your birth experience with your provider. Were there any complications? Why did they happen? What can you do to avoid or minimize the risk of similar complications in future pregnancies?
- If you were prescribed medication during your pregnancy, like blood pressure, thyroid or diabetes medications, do you need to stay on them? Is it time to adjust or stop these medications now?
- How is your bleeding (lochia)? Most lochia last for 3-8 weeks after birth and can be heavy or just spotting, often gradually becoming lighter in color and amount.
- Are you having any other common postpartum symptoms like constipation or vaginal dryness? Your provider can offer suggestions to help.
- Do you have symptoms or concerns about a weak pelvic floor, such as incontinence, pelvic pressure or a vaginal bulge? Your provider can offer resources for pelvic floor strengthening or a referral to a pelvic rehabilitation physical therapist. Get checked for diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles), which can contribute to or be a symptom of pelvic floor weakness.
- What are your family planning goals? It’s wise to space pregnancies at least 18 months apart, to avoid adverse outcomes in a future pregnancy, such as maternal anemia (low iron), preterm labor, and problems with the placenta and membranes (waters). There are many reversible birth control methods to ask about like the pill, implants, IUDs, or condoms.
- Take the Brain Power assessment to check for possible postpartum depression. Mood swings are common in the first couple of weeks postpartum because maternal hormones are changing drastically. These “baby blues” are different from postpartum mood disorders though, which are often more severe and last longer. Be open with your provider about what you’re going through.
- Ask your provider if it’s okay for you to resume exercising, if that’s part of your normal health regimen. Or, perhaps you need more resources and support to get you started, with a goal of achieving a weight that is healthy for you. A healthy weight may not even be your “pre pregnancy” weight. It’s important to embrace your postpartum body as your renewed starting point, respecting what it has accomplished in the pregnancy and birth of your baby, and establishing new goals for the new you.
- If you’re smoking, ask your provider for resources to help you quit.
Your 6-week postpartum check up is a time to check-in with your provider, ask questions, and learn about resources to help you make a full recovery from your pregnancy. You’re working hard to care for your new baby but you can only do that best when you feel your best too!
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). May 2018. Optimizing postpartum care. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2018/05/optimizing-postpartum-care
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC). April 2022. Depression during and after pregnancy, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/features/maternal-depression/index.html
- Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-doctor-and-patient-doing-handshake-5206923/