Regardless of the method in which you choose to deliver your baby, post-childbirth recovery is essential. However, it's not always easy to focus on. But between sleep deprivation and putting the needs of another tiny human before yours, it’s extremely important to maintain self-care. After all, you can care for others better when you're doing your best, and the first step to practicing self-care as a new parent is your six-week postpartum checkup.
Your first appointment with your OBGYN without a baby in your belly might feel a bit intimidating, but it’s really just to make sure you’re healing properly and are in good postpartum health. To learn more about this important appointment, we spoke with Dr. Laura Riley, Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief at Weill Cornell Medicine, for all of the details on what you can expect at your postpartum checkup.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Laura Riley is the Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Internationally recognized for her work, Riley specializes in maternal and fetal medicine and high-risk obstetrics.
When to Schedule a Postpartum Appointment
While taking care of your newborn, the last thing you may be thinking of is your six-week postpartum checkup. It's typically scheduled six weeks post-delivery (as long as all is going according to plan), and that timing can seem a bit far off at first. But those sleepless nights will fly by and soon it will be time to meet with your doctor again.
However, according to Riley, if there is a concern about a cesarean delivery scar, a patient may come in earlier to check. And if there are issues with high blood pressure, they may be back in the doctor’s office as soon as two days post-delivery.
While six weeks is the norm, it’s really important to keep an eye out for any concerning symptoms that should definitely be reported to your doctor as soon as possible. "These include fever, chills, excessive bleeding, headache, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, breast pain with fever or redness, tenderness with swelling in legs, increasing pain in the vaginal incision or c-section scar, or leaking from the c-section scar,” says Riley. And while these are a list of common examples, they are just some, but not all, of the reasons to call. To be on the safe side—when in doubt, give your doctor a ring.
What to Discuss at Your Postpartum Checkup
A routine postpartum follow up appointment will generally include examinations for blood pressure, resolution of bleeding, healing of tears and scars, and symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Riley says you’ll also most likely have a conversation with your doctor about your unique delivery experience, complications and implications for future pregnancies, obtaining birth control, and ideal birth spacing, as well as a discussion on breastfeeding. Generally speaking, there probably won’t be any labs performed during this appointment, unless you’re due for a pap smear or need one repeated.
Preparing for Your Postpartum Checkup
There’s no prep necessary for this appointment, but you may want to mentally prepare for a pelvic and breast exam. Both may be uncomfortable in the early postpartum weeks.
Assuming all goes well at this follow up appointment, you’ll most likely be cleared for sexual intercourse, exercise, and to return to work. Be sure to prepare any other questions or concerns you may have for your doctor to leave the appointment with clarity on all things post-baby. And if you were seeing solely an OB throughout your pregnancy (for instance, if your regular gynecologist does not perform obstetric services), then this is likely the last time you’ll see them, and you can return back to your regular gynecologist. For most women, this appointment may be the final medical appointment needed for themselves as they venture into new motherhood.