Talking to your doctor about your health after delivery

It may feel too soon to start talking about how you’ll feel physically after you deliver Baby, but when you do give birth, you’ll probably be a little distracted by labor, delivery, and the brand new person you’re going to get to see for the first time. And by the time you see your doctor again about your physical health, it may be as much as six weeks before your postpartum checkup. Really, now is a great time to get some baseline information about what your physical health might look like once you’re no longer pregnant, and what you might need to do to get yourself feeling your best as soon as possible.

Helping your body heal

Whether you give birth vaginally or by c-section, your body is going to need some time to recover afterwards, both from delivery itself and from the months of big physical changes you’ve been going through leading up to delivery. It is normal to experience some vaginal bleeding and discharge for up to six weeks after delivery. You may also experience swelling in your legs, and cramping, especially during breastfeeding. You’ll want to follow your doctor’s instructions about getting the rest you need, which may include limiting physical activity like climbing stairs.

Postpartum sex – what you need to know

After delivery, your healthcare provider will recommend that you hold off on having sex for a few weeks in order to give your cervix time to close, your body time to heal from any tearing, and to prevent infection. In most cases, your healthcare provider will be able to give you the green light to resume having insertive vaginal sex as soon as you feel ready after your postpartum checkup, which is usually scheduled for around six weeks after delivery.

Many new moms’ periods return six to eight weeks after delivery, and fertility comes back a little bit before the first period, so it’s a good idea to think about birth control before this happens. Most parents of newborns aren’t quite ready to add another baby to the mix right away, and pregnancies that happen 18 months or less after a previous birth can be less healthy for mom and baby than pregnancies that are spaced further apart.

The six week postpartum appointment can be a great time to talk about contraception, but there’s also no reason to wait that long. Your healthcare provider can talk you through your postpartum contraceptive options at your next prenatal visit.

  • Intrauterine device (IUD): An IUD is a piece of plastic containing copper or the hormone progestin that a health care provider places inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Depending on which type you choose, an IUD can provide birth control without you needing to do anything about it for three to twelve years – although it can be taken out by a doctor at any time, for any reason. Once placed by a doctor, it is one of the most effective and low-maintenance types of birth control. Copper IUDs can sometimes be placed just after delivery, leaving new moms able to walk out of the hospital with both a new baby and birth control all set up.
  • Implant: The birth control implant is a small, thin rod that is inserted into the upper arm, and provide hormonal birth control for up to three or four years. Like IUDs, implants are highly effective and don’t need any maintenance. They are also reversible and can be removed at any time, for any reason.
  • Lactational amenorrhea method: If you’re exclusively breastfeeding Baby, you may already be planning on using an effective form of birth control! Breastfeeding as birth control only works for a little while, since it is only effective when your baby feeds at least every four hours during the day, and at least every six hours at night. When used perfectly, the lactational amenorrhea method can be as effective as hormonal birth control at preventing pregnancy.
  • The pill: Many new moms find taking the pill exactly when it’s meant to be taken gets significantly harder with a newborn, which can make the pill less effective. However, it is a very effective form of birth control when it’s taken in a way that fully follows its instructions.
  • The ring: The birth control method called the ring is worn vaginally and contains the same hormones as the pill. Some women find it easier to maintain because it is a monthly, rather than a daily method.
  • The patch: The patch contains the same hormones as the pill and ring. The patch is worn on the skin and changed weekly.
  • The shot: Birth control shots are given on a 12 week cycle and contains only progestin – no estrogen – making is safe for breastfeeding women.
  • Condoms: It’s always important to note that condoms are the only form of birth control that protects against STDs.

Most health insurance covers birth control at no cost to the patient, but you can contact your insurance company to confirm that your postpartum contraception will be covered.

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