4 Ways to Prep for Your First Postpartum Checkup
With so many things vying for your attention after giving birth – feedings, diapers, cuddles, sleep and healing – your first postpartum visit may not be at the top of your mind.
Postpartum care is vital for a healthy recovery. Unfortunately, many women don't understand how critical a postpartum check-up is; only 40 percent make it to their first postpartum appointment.
In an effort to improve outcomes – the U.S. has the worst maternal health outcomes in the developed world – the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now suggests that new mothers receive their first postpartum care checkup within three weeks of giving birth, rather than six weeks as previously suggested. ACOG also recommends an additional more in-depth visit within three months of delivery.
Four ways to prepare for your first visit:
Prepare for a Pelvic Exam
Expect a complete physical exam and pelvic exam along with a pap smear, so prepare accordingly.
Your practitioner will confirm that your uterus is shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size, a process that takes approximately two months. They will examine your breasts for common post-pregnancy issues, such as blocked milk ducts and hormone-driven lumps. Your practitioner may also check for other post-pregnancy issues like a swollen thyroid, incontinence, constipation and hemorrhoids.
This is your time to speak up about any concerns you have regarding your physical health. If you have pain during your examination, be sure to tell your practitioner. Don't be shy about discussing any issues, no matter now embarrassing you think they are.
Write Down any Questions or Concerns
Postpartum brain fog may make it difficult to remember everything you want to discuss with your provider during your visit. To prepare for your appointment, start compiling a list of your questions or concerns and add to it each time you think of something new.
Remember: no question is too embarrassing, and there are no stupid questions. Your body goes through extraordinary changes in a short amount of time during the postpartum period; you should expect the unusual.
Research Birth Control Options
Your postpartum visit is the optimal time to talk about your birth control options. Due to your changing hormones and breastfeeding, not all birth control options will be ideal. For example, diaphragms and sponges are not as effective post-pregnancy and may leave you at risk for accidental pregnancy. Some hormone-focused methods also pose a higher risk for blood clots during the postpartum period and, for this reason, are not recommended. Most methods are safe for breastfeeding mothers. However, a few are not recommended during the first few weeks of breastfeeding; timing may be an issue.
Birth control options that do not have any postpartum concerns or restrictions:
· Intrauterine device
· Implant (usually in the arm)
· Hormonal injection
· Lactational amenorrhea (not as effective)
Depending on your unique circumstances, other options may be available to you. Be sure to talk to your practitioner about your options.
Honestly Evaluate your Mental State
Stress and depression are very common postpartum side effects; about 50 percent of women experience the "baby blues." Postpartum depression is more severe and affects a smaller percentage of women, but should be taken seriously. If feelings of sadness are lingering or worsening after giving birth, be honest with your practitioner so you can access the support you need.
Although rare, another psychological postpartum condition called postpartum psychosis affects one in 500 to 1,000 women. Psychosis, which usually occurs within six weeks of giving birth, causes a loss of touch with reality. If you have diagnosed mental health conditions, such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, you are at greater risk for developing psychosis.
Your practitioner can help you deal with any issues you're having postpartum, but remember to be open about your experience. To get the most out of your first postpartum care visit, tell your provider everything and ask questions. If questions or concerns linger, Binto's team of licensed providers is here to support you.