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Preparation for your first postpartum visit

Preparing for your first postpartum exam is so important. Those early weeks of being a parent have been exciting and, at times, overwhelming. Who knew babies could be so unpredictable?

So much has changed so quickly that it can be tough to register it all - both with our bodies and our routines. You may still be figuring out the right feeding schedule, you’re likely tired, and probably can’t remember the last time you had time for a shower. While the mix of feelings becomes more regular with with, you don’t want to miss your first postpartum visit with your care provider. Our babies have had a few visits by now, but it is now time to focus on mom.  

With so many things happening all at once, it may seem like just another thing to do. Don’t overthink it–prepping for your postpartum checkup should be comforting. It’s a time to learn how your body is recovering and what comes next in the healing process.

You’ll want to make sure your care provider has all the necessary information to get you the help, advice, and reassurance you need during the visit, so take notes and come prepared. Always be your loudest advocate.

What is a postpartum checkup, and what happens at it?

A lot of things will happen at your first postpartum checkup. It’s a time to examine your post-pregnancy body to monitor recovery. It’s a time to discuss sex, birth control, and maybe planning for your next baby in the future. Let’s look at the many things you’ll do at your first postpartum checkup.

Examination of your post-pregnancy body

Your practitioner will be looking to make sure certain parts of the body, like your uterus, are returning to pre-pregnancy dimensions. The process of your uterus shrinking back to normal could take up to two months. Be patient with yourself. The uterus needs to go from the size of a XX back down to roughly the size of a pear. Remember, you just gave birth to life–that’s a lot to ask the body to recover from.

If procedures like c-sections or episiotomy are done, your doctor would ensure that incisions are healing properly.

Everyday things many women discuss with their practitioners are:
  • Normal postpartum bleeding
  • Bladder issues
  • Cramping
  • Bowel Problems
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Fatigue
The list above is just a starting point and is by no means all-encompassing. Be sure to monitor any changes in your body and discuss it with your practitioner.

Having your annual exam

This visit will also double as an annual gynecological visit. You’ll get most of the same tests in your annual exams, like a pelvic exam, pap smear, and breast check. You can also expect regular tests like weight checks and blood pressure. Be sure to ask any questions about your general wellness at this time, such as diet and nutrition-related questions, as you may need additional supplementation post-pregnancy. Your doctor may opt to perform blood sugar tests, but it’s usually only if you had a condition like gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Get the go-ahead for normal activities.

You’re probably itching to get back to your normal activities. If your practitioner confirms that everything looks normal, you should get the green light at the visit to start exercising again. Depending on recovery, you can lift heavy objects again but truly, who wants to do that? You carrying your baby to term was more than enough!

Talking about resuming sex, birth control, and IUDs

After birth, the period of no sex can be difficult for a relationship. Discuss if it’s safe to resume sex and about your birth control options. If you use a pill and are breastfeeding, a “minipill” mat be recommended? Diaphragms will need to be refitted also. If you had previously had a IUD removed, you can typically have a new one inserted between 4-6 weeks. Discussing all the options with your provider at this time will help you better plan for the future.

When should I have my postpartum checkup?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you have your first postnatal visit at about three weeks. ACOG also recommends having regular check-ins as often as you need them (advocate for your needs) and having at least one comprehensive visit within 12 weeks postpartum.

Can I bring my baby to my checkup appointment?

Most new mothers bring their babies to their postpartum visit. You should always check with your practitioner before the visit to ensure it’s OK. If you bring the baby, try to find that perfect spot between sleepy and hungry where both are satisfied. Yes, we know how difficult it can be–we always just hope for the best!

Discussing future baby plans at a postpartum visit

We mentioned it earlier, but if baby plans are in your future, now is time to talk with your doctor. You’ll be able to use your postpartum exam to get an idea of when you could try again.

Most recommend at least 18 months after your previous pregnancy.

Taking care of yourself starts with getting reassured that your body is healing normally. Postpartum exams are a great way to learn about what comes next in your journey and feel better about yourself.

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