Pregnant moms usually attend their prenatal visits – they get to hear their baby’s heartbeat, talk about their concerns, make plans for delivery. But did you know that as many as 40% of new moms don’t keep their postpartum appointments?! There are good reasons for this, of course.
Think of it as your fourth trimester
You have a new baby and your life has just reached a new level of overwhelming and you may find it all too tempting to skip your postpartum appointments. But your postpartum follow-up visits are vitally important, for the following reasons:
1.) Postpartum contraception
You may have discussed birth control during the course of the pregnancy, or in the first day or two after delivery.
But you need to talk some more.
What are your plans for growing your family and spacing your pregnancies? Is it time to talk about permanent sterilization for you or your partner? Do you want to wait a year before becoming pregnant again? Two years? Five? There are all kinds of options for contraception, from natural family planning to pills to intrauterine or implantable devices.
And it may be time for your well-woman exam and Pap smear.
2.) Postpartum Lactation
You may talk with a lactation specialist in the first few days after you have your baby.
They are a terrific resource for you, providing advice and support as you get the hang of breastfeeding. But after you go home from the hospital or birthing center, what then? Some questions take a week or two to bubble up. Your OB provider can help with any concerns.
3.) Postpartum Hypertension
If you had elevated blood pressure in pregnancy – preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, or chronic hypertension – your risk of long-term hypertension is 4 times higher than average, and your risk of heart disease, stroke, and blood clots are doubled.
The postpartum visit is so important for follow up of your blood pressure. You may need medication, referral to a primary care provider, or additional lab work to assess your risk.
4.) Diabetes during and after pregnancy
As I have mentioned in posts about diabetes, if you have gestational diabetes, your risk of staying diabetic is about 30%.
Your risk of becoming diabetic in the next 5-10 years is another 30%.
So there is more than a 60% chance that you will be dealing with diabetes after you have your baby. Your postpartum visit is when you are re-tested and counseled about diabetes. If you test positive, you will need to follow up with a primary care provider; if your postpartum test is normal, you will still need to be seen by your primary care provider every year or two for glucose testing.
5.) Depression and mood
According to the NIH National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression occurs in about 10% of women. If you have symptoms of depression, you may be the last person to notice. Your OB provider is experienced in screening for this. If you are depressed, there is help for you, in the form of counseling and/or medications.
6.) Your sexuality after giving birth
When can you resume sexual activities after having a baby? How will sex be different? Will it hurt? Your OB provider can anticipate some of these concerns and reassure you about what to expect.
7.) Weight loss
Here is a not-so-fun fact – 75% of women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy. And on average, women retain 40% of their pregnancy weight gain at 6 months postpartum.
75% of women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy
The more weight you have gained, the harder it is to lose. Carrying extra weight has long-term consequences for you including an increased risks of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. You need to sit down and talk about a weight loss plan with your OB provider. Your OB has experience helping other women in your exact situation maintain a healthy weight during and after pregnancy. Use this valuable resource because you deserve it.
Aside from these 7 compelling reasons you should consider your postpartum care your fourth trimester, you may be having even more concerns. Fatigue, caring for a new baby, or bleeding too much or at odd times are all additional reasons you should see your OB provider for postpartum visits.
The postpartum visit is the time to talk about all these questions and concerns. Don’t skip it! You and baby deserve this specialized attention. Don’t rely only on friends or the internet to answer your pressing questions. Take good care.