What to Expect at a Postpartum Checkup—And Why the Visit Matters
What to Expect at a Postpartum Checkup
By Dr. Diana Ramos
Postpartum checkups with an ob-gyn are crucial to ensuring new moms stay healthy. This critical “fourth trimester”—the time of recovery after giving birth—is a chance to set the stage for a new mom’s best possible health, now and in the future.
Many moms struggle with anxiety, pain, fatigue, and other concerns in the weeks after birth. If you are having a hard time, you are not alone. Ob-gyns can help moms with these problems—don’t feel embarrassed asking for help. Care and treatment can make life better for you and your family.
Checkups can give you and your ob-gyn a complete picture of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Your ob-gyn should do a physical exam, including a pelvic exam, to ensure you’re healing well from birth.
They should also ask questions to find out if you’re having any problems new moms often struggle with. These include:
- depression, anxiety, or both
- difficulties with feeding or other newborn care
- poor sleep, fatigue, pain, or bleeding
- leaking urine or pain when you urinate
- gas and constipation
- emotional support and help with childcare, chores, transportation, and meals
- basic needs, such as food, diapers, and money for bills
Your ob-gyn should ask about your sexual health too. Together you can talk about the following:
- sex, including when it’s safe to have it and what you can do if you have pain or concerns about a lack of interest
- birth control and choosing the best method for you
- timing for future pregnancies
Postpartum checkups can help you prevent future medical problems. Pregnancy is a window into your health for the rest of your life. If you had high blood pressure while pregnant, your risk for heart disease later in life may be higher. The same is true for gestational diabetes and developing diabetes in the future. But there are many things you and your doctors can do to reduce these risks.
Ideally, you can have several postpartum checkups. Postpartum checkups were always limited to one visit, 4 to 6 weeks after birth. But it’s hard to cover everything needed to ensure mom’s health in one 30-minute visit.
That’s why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now advises that new moms connect with their ob-gyns several times during the 12 weeks after birth.
Learn how much postpartum care your insurance covers. The change to multiple postpartum checkups is still new, so your insurance may not cover more than one visit. The best time to find out what your insurance covers is before your baby is born.
Staying healthy involves ongoing ob-gyn visits, even after the postpartum period. Before your last postpartum visit, your ob-gyn should help make sure you’re set up to continue your care with routine visits. These visits can give you ongoing help with any concerns and are a chance for continued screening and prevention of future health problems.
Don’t skip your postpartum checkup. You may feel you have reasons for missing. Maybe you feel fine and don’t need another thing on your list. You may not have an easy way to get to your ob-gyn’s office. But it’s still important to seek care.
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