What to expect at your six-week postpartum check-up

It's standard to visit your OB or midwife at the six-week mark. But just what happens at that appointment?

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At my last OB appointment before my son was born, I remember her telling me that she’d see me again at my six-week postpartum check up.

Six weeks? I remember thinking that seemed like a long way away…but also not nearly enough time for me to get myself together. What would happen if I wasn’t getting any sleep, or couldn’t get any weight off by then? And I’d heard that that’s the appointment when you get the green light for sex and exercise—but what if I wasn’t healed enough?

Turns out, I didn’t need to stress about any of that. Whether you had an OB or a midwife, your postpartum check-up is really a chance for you to talk to your health-care provider about how you’re recovering and how you’re feeling, says Batya Grundland, a family physician and maternity care lead at The Women’s College Hospital Family Health Team in Toronto.

“There are three components to that post-baby appointment,” she says. “We review the birth and look at your postpartum recovery; we do a physical exam which could be internal or just external depending on the patient; and we talk about preventative methods or preparation for future births.”

Typically, the appointment will last about 20 to 30 minutes, and it could include a pap smear if you’re due for one. You will talk about the birth and any issues with recovery.

Be prepared for your physician to take note of your weight and height, and examine many different areas of your body, like your breasts, thyroid or pelvis. If you had a C-section, they’ll have a good look at the scar. This is also the time to talk out about contraception or preparation for future births and getting back into a healthy routine including exercise, says Grundland.

But it’s not all about your physical well-being. Expect some questions about your mental health as well. “Screening for postpartum depression is a standard piece of what we do,” says Grundland. “We ask about mood, about support systems and even about domestic violence.”

Some new moms wonder whether they should bring their new baby to the OB appointment. If you prefer to leave baby with your partner or a grandparent, that’s fine—the OB generally doesn’t need to examine the little one. That said, feel free to bring baby along. If she cries, or needs to nurse, the doctor or nurses will completely understand. They’ve seen it all!

       
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For families who worked with a midwife, these topics are likely to come up as part of the series of post-natal appointments, beginning as soon as baby arrives. “I remember talking about post-baby sex, my mood and how I was feeling not just as part of my six-week appointment, but all along,” says Meg Watkins, a mom of two in Nanaimo, B.C. She saw her midwives four or fives times after her deliveries. At these checkups, your midwife will be ready to answer questions not just about your recovery, but about baby care. “The six-week appointment is that last chance to ask them any questions or ask advice about sleeping, swaddling, or anything,” says Watkins.. You just feel such a strong bond to these women,” she recalled.

Watkins was also grateful for that her midwife went through a postpartum depression checklist. “I had postpartum depression after my first and without those questions, I might have brushed it off and said I felt fine,” she says.

One unexpected but common occurrence at the six-week postpartum check-up with midwives is feeling of profound sadness. “I didn’t want to say goodbye,” says Toronto mom Tamara Robbins Griffith. “I was crying. It was so emotional. It’s your last chance to ask questions and get support and feedback in a safe environment with someone you’ve built a relationship with over the past year.”

Exactly what happens at the six-week postpartum checkup can really depend on where you live and who your healthcare provider is. But one thing is for sure, says Grundland: “I think what everyone really wants to know is ‘Has everything gone back to normal down there?’”

Read more:
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