After you have your baby, your doctor or midwife usually wants to see you in the office for a postpartum visit about six weeks after you deliver. However, a recent study that looked at moms who delivered in Maryland showed a pretty depressing statistic: only half of the women studied attended that postpartum check-up! While you may think this visit isn’t that important, there are many reasons it shouldn’t be skipped.
At your postpartum visit, your provider will check your vital signs, including weight and blood pressure. If you had any issues with high blood pressure or preeclampsia during your pregnancy, this is especially important.
All providers should also screen for postpartum depression at the postpartum visit. Since postpartum depression affects approximately 15 percent of new moms, it is one of the most common complications of pregnancy. You do not need to suffer in silence if you have this; your doctor or midwife can discuss various treatment options—but they can’t help you if they don’t know about it.
Your provider will also ask questions to make sure you are recovering appropriately from your delivery. They will want to make sure your bleeding is normal, there are no signs of infection, and that you are not in an abnormal amount of pain. They will also do an exam to make sure you’ve healed well and your uterus has returned to its normal size. Lastly, they will discuss having sex and make sure you are physically ready (though the green light from your doctor does not mean you have to yet if you don’t want to!).
Discussing birth control is also a key component of the postpartum check-up, as you can get pregnant as soon as a few weeks after your delivery! A very high incidence of unintended pregnancies can be correlated to women not using birth control despite their desire to not conceive quite yet. If you are breastfeeding, your provider can make recommendations for options that will not interfere with this.
If you’ve had any pregnancy complications, it is even more essential to keep this appointment. For example, women with gestational diabetes need a postpartum test to make sure it has resolved. These are also women who are at a much higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, so making sure they know this and have plans to be followed closely by their primary care provider can be discussed at this visit.
So even if this is your third baby and you have no questions, it is still important for your overall health to make sure you get the preventive care you need. If you’ve missed your appointment and think you can wait until you are due for your annual, go ahead and give your doctor’s office a call. They will be happy to see you sooner!
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- A recent study showed that only half of women attend their postpartum visits.
- Many important screenings take place at a postpartum check-up.
- Family planning is an important discussion to have at your visit.
- Women who had any complications during pregnancy are especially encouraged to not miss their appointments.