‘Postpartum’ as a word just means “after childbirth.” After you give birth, you’re technically postpartum for the rest of your life. Medically speaking, you’ll be considered postpartum for 6 to 8 weeks after you give birth. Women typically have a postpartum checkup with their healthcare provider at the 6 or 8 week point after delivery, though it might be earlier if you had a C-section.
What happens at my appointment?
Your healthcare provider wants to make sure you’re doing well physically, mentally, and emotionally after giving birth. Having a newborn is a major life change, and your healthcare provider is here to answer any questions and help you adjust.
Your healthcare provider will examine you to make sure you’re healing properly, talk to you about how you’re feeling, give recommendations about sex and birth control, and ask about your nutrition. If you’re breastfeeding, they’ll ask about how feedings are going and talk with you about any problems you might be having.
What will we talk about?
Your pregnancy is over, but your aches and pains are going to hang around a little while longer. One of the reasons for this appointment is to give you an opportunity to talk with your healthcare provider about how your body feels post-pregnancy. Some changes are totally normal, but certain symptoms could indicate a potential problem. Some symptoms you might experience postpartum include:
- Vaginal soreness or discharge: You can expect to be uncomfortable for a few weeks after delivery, but if your pain gets worse or you’re still seeing heavy discharge or bleeding the time your appointment rolls around, it may be cause for concern.
- Problems urinating: After giving birth, you may experience pain or burning with urination, or a frequent need to urinate. These symptoms could indicate a urinary tract infection or another issue, so your healthcare provider will check in with you about how everything’s going in the bathroom.
- Hemorrhoids: While you’re talking about bathroom time, your healthcare provider may ask if you’re experiencing pain during bowel movements. Hemorrhoids are common problems during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, and can be treated with topical medication or a stool softener.
- Sore or leaking breasts: If you’re not breastfeeding, your milk will likely dry up in a week or two after giving birth. If you choose to breastfeed, your healthcare provider will ask you about how feedings are going and if you’re experiencing any issues or soreness.
- Hormone changes: Pregnancy and postpartum are a hormonal roller coaster, and your body will still be recovering. You might experience hair loss, skin changes, or changed in your mood. These things are perfectly normal, but you can talk with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
- Weight loss: Now that you’re no longer carrying Baby in your abdomen, you don’t need all of that weight your body worked so hard to gain during pregnancy. Losing weight shouldn’t be a priority right after you give birth, especially since you just finished the toughest workout there is. When you go in for your postpartum appointment, you can start thinking about weight loss and talk to your healthcare provider about your nutrition and safe weight loss goals to set.
What questions should I ask?
There’s typically only one postpartum appointment, meaning that you may not be able to cover every single thing that’s going on with your physical, mental, and overall health following pregnancy. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, write them down and ask about them at your appointment. If you have questions about whether something is normal with you or Baby, this is the perfect time to ask. If you have questions about your feelings, sex drive, menstruation, or anything related to your physical or mental health, your healthcare provider will be happy to answer them. That being said, you can always call the office for advice or an earlier appointment if you’re concerned about a particular symptom!
Coming prepared with questions can help you get the most out of your appointment, but don’t hesitate to schedule additional follow-up appointments if you need them.
Mayo Clinic. “Postpartum care: What to expect after a vaginal delivery.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. March 24, 2015. Web.
“Postpartum care.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. September 28, 2016. Web.