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Why New Moms Shouldn't Skip the Postpartum Checkup

Pregnant woman with doctor

Your new baby is finally here, and you’re still feeling exhausted after giving birth. Your postpartum (after childbirth) checkup may seem like something you can put at the bottom of your to-do list -- but that would be a mistake!

“Having an appointment to make sure you are at your physical and emotional best, helps you take better care of your baby and enjoy this pivotal time in both your lives,” says Ilana Kresch, CNW, a certified nurse midwife at Westshore Midwifery Associates. “Postpartum appointments are a continuation of the important prenatal relationship you’ve established with your midwife or doctor to keep you healthy.”

What to Expect After Giving Birth

Your new baby may be the center of your world. But there’s a lot happening inside your own body, too. You’re recovering from childbirth and your hormones are changing. You may have:

  • Vaginal discharge that starts out bright red and then gets lighter in color and flow until it goes away after a few weeks
  • Cramping similar to menstrual cramps
  • Swelling in your legs or feet
  • Constipation

If you had a cesarean section (C-section), your body needs to heal from surgery as well. You may also have:

  • Discharge or bleeding, sometimes with clots, for four to six weeks
  • Pain in your incision

“It’s important to take it easy during these early weeks,” Kresch says. “Remember to ease back into normal activity slowly. Your body just accomplished a huge feat, and even if you feel great, it is important not to rush into doing too much, too fast, as this can prolong your recovery.”

Checking Up on Your Health

You will need to schedule one or more postpartum appointments with your provider. The timing and number of visits depend on your needs. Below are some general guidelines.

First Three Weeks after Delivery

During this time, your provider may follow up to see how you are doing. In many cases, this can be done by phone or through a virtual visit. But your provider may want you to come in for an office visit:

  • If you had a C-section, to check that you are healing well and the incision is not infected
  • If you had high blood pressure during pregnancy, to manage your blood pressure and reduce your risk of having a stroke

Three to Eight Weeks After Delivery

At this point, all new moms should get a complete postpartum checkup. The checkup is a chance for you and your provider to discuss:

  • Any issues you are having, such as C-section pain or urine leaks
  • How soon you can safely get pregnant again, if you want to do that
  • Your birth control options and preferences
  • Any tests you may need, such as a blood sugar test or Pap test
  • When you can resume physical activity
  • How to eat a nutritious diet that can promote healthy weight loss as well as milk production, if you are breastfeeding
  • How to manage tiredness and lack of sleep

Once back home, be sure to follow your provider’s advice. “Maintaining a healthy routine for exercise, meals, and sleep is good for you both physically and emotionally,” Kresch says.

Taking Stock of Your Mood

During your check-up, you will be screened for postpartum depression and anxiety. This is routine for every new parent. The screening may involve answering some questions about your mood.

You may feel a little blue or weepy for a few days after giving birth. “That’s pretty normal,” Kresch says, “but if you have intense, long-lasting feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety, you may have a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Those feelings can be so disruptive that they make it hard to take care of yourself and your baby.”

“Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are common and can happen to anyone. These are treatable conditions caused in part by changing hormones.” If you do have postpartum depression or anxiety, treatment with medicine and/or therapy can help you feel better.

“Mood and anxiety disorders are the most common complication of pregnancy/postpartum,” explains Kresch, “yet, one of the least discussed, and the most stigmatized.” Kresch says. “Talking to your midwife or OB about mental health concerns is an important step in getting the help you need.”

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