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--you may be tempted to not give a second's thought to your first postpartum visit. You may even wish you could skip it altogether, but you shouldn't.
Postpartum care is vital for a healthy recovery. Unfortunately, many women aren't getting the message; only 40 percent make it to their first postpartum appointment.
In an effort to improve outcomes--the US has the worst maternal health outcomes in the developed world--the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is now suggesting that you receive your first postpartum care checkup within three weeks of giving birth rather than six weeks, as previously suggested. They also recommend a more in-depth visit within three months of delivery.
Following are four ways to prepare for your first visit:
Prepare for a Pelvic Exam
You should 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. Other post-pregnancy issues that they may check for include 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 fog may make it difficult for you to remember everything you would like to discuss with your women's health services provider during your visit. A good way to combat the fog is to write everything down. Approximately a week before your appointment, start compiling a list and add to it each time you think of something knew.
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. Remember, 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.
Following is a brief list of birth control options that do not have any postpartum concerns or restrictions:
· Intrauterine device
· Implant (usually in 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 side effects that come along with being a new mother; about 50 percent of women get the baby blues. Postpartum depression is more severe and affects a smaller percentage of women, but it should be taken seriously. If your baby blues are lingering or worsening, be honest with your practitioner. There is help available.
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 you to lose touch with reality. If you have diagnosed mental health conditions, such as bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, you are at greater risk for developing psychosis.
Your practitioner can help you deal with any issues you're having postpartum, but you must be willing to open up about them. To get the most out of your first postpartum care visit, tell your provider everything and ask questions. If questions or concerns linger, BINTO can help.