What Happens at a Postpartum Checkup
After you give birth, caring for your newborn is a high priority. But postpartum care is equally important.
A postpartum visit is a checkup with your doctor or midwife. They’ll check on your healing and your physical and mental health. There can be a lot of changes and effects after going through labor and delivery and adding a new baby to your family. So don’t skip these important visits.
“Postpartum visits are crucial,” says Katy Orr, a certified nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Here’s when to have postpartum visits and what you can expect.
When to Schedule Your Postpartum Visits
In the past, just one postpartum visit was typically scheduled 4–6 weeks after a c-section or after a vaginal delivery. But now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends ongoing care throughout the 12 weeks after childbirth.
Exactly what your doctor or midwife recommends could vary. It often breaks down to:
- One visit within the first 3–4 weeks of giving birth. (If you had a c-section, your doctor may schedule a 2-week incision check.)
- Additional visits as needed, especially if you’re at risk for a health concern or experiencing signs of one
- A final checkup by 12-weeks postpartum
What Happens During the Postpartum Checkup
A postpartum visit typically includes:
- Measuring your vital signs (height, weight, body temperature, blood pressure)
- Examining your breasts and stomach area
- Performing a pelvic exam to check on the healing of any tears or episiotomy
- Evaluating your c-section incision for healing (if you have one)
- Reviewing any health issues that affected your pregnancy, and what they might mean for future pregnancies or your long-term health
- Monitoring any health conditions you have, especially those that developed in pregnancy (such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia)
- Discussing birth control options
- Discussing your mental health and screening for postpartum depression
- Reviewing how feeding is going, and, if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding, whether you may benefit from meeting with a lactation consultant
- Providing time for you to ask questions
Whether you’re exhausted and overwhelmed—or feeling just fine—it’s important to attend these visits. “So much is discussed at the postpartum visit, and so much has happened since the patient’s last prenatal visit, so to have this continuation of care is vital and needed,” says Orr.
How to Prepare for Your Visit
Come to the appointment with a list of any questions you have. It’s usually okay to bring your baby, but make sure you can focus on the visit. “If you can, have someone help with your baby so you can discuss these questions and write down answers without too much distraction,” Orr says.
If you’re interested in birth control, research potential options ahead of time so you have an idea of what you’re looking for, suggests Jessica Salak, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
This may also help you prepare for the visit. For example, if you’re opting to have a long-acting continuous contraceptive method placed, like an IUD, you can call ahead and ask whether or not it can be placed during this visit. If it will be, “it may be wise to take some ibuprofen before coming in to help you deal with any discomfort,” Salak says.
And remember to be gentle with yourself. Birthing parents are usually sleep deprived and overstimulated, says Orr.
Line up transportation ahead of time, and give yourself plenty of time to make it to the appointment.
Your doctor or midwife wants to know exactly how you’re doing and help you through anything that’s been hard. “Approach it with a lot of grace and honesty,” Orr says.
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