What to Expect at Your First Postpartum Checkup

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Your postpartum checkup is the first visit you will have with your doctor after giving birth. It is important to ensure that you are recovering from your pregnancy and birth. Your doctor will want to check in on both your physical and mental health, and screen for any postpartum complications. It’s also your opportunity to raise any concerns you might have about your health or your baby. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you see your doctor for a postpartum visit within the first 12 weeks after birth, and that you are at least in contact with your doctor within the first three weeks postpartum. If you are experiencing complications such as preeclampsia or bleeding, or if you had a c-section, your doctor will likely want to see you sooner: sometimes as early as 72 hours after delivery, other times about 3-5 days postpartum.

Make this appointment a priority even if you are feeling good. After birth, contact your doctor’s office to plan for your postpartum care and be sure to check in with your insurance plan to understand your coverage.  

Here is what you can expect at your postpartum checkup

Physical exam 

Your doctor will check your blood pressure, weight, and temperature. They will also check your uterus to make sure it is shrinking back to its normal size. They will also perform a pelvic exam to check your vagina and cervix. If you had a vaginal tear or c-section incision, your doctor will check your stitches to ensure it is healing properly. A breast examination will be done to assess for engorgement or any changes that can occur with breastfeeding and/or pumping. We understand that for transgender individuals, physical postpartum exams may be particularly sensitive, so we encourage an open conversation with your provider. Ask about aspects of exams that are essential, vs. portions you may decline, to ensure you are receiving proper medical care.

If you had any complications or have a chronic condition, your doctor may also recommend additional tests, such as checking your blood sugar levels. They will also ensure that you are up to date on all immunizations and communicate any recommended screenings for follow-up.  

It is important to also discuss your options for postpartum contraception. You can get pregnant even in the weeks after childbirth. Discuss your options for birth control to understand what might be best for you.    

Mental health screening

Your doctor will also ask you questions about your emotional state and well-being. They may use a screening tool to assess your risk for postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is common, as 1 in 8 women will experience symptoms, and transgender individuals have particularly high rates of depression/anxiety post-pregnancy, as well. While it is normal to feel a range of emotions after your baby is born, PPD symptoms can be severe and can last weeks after giving birth.   

Symptoms can include:  

  • Feeling angry or moody 
  • Feeling sad or hopeless 
  • Unusual crying or sadness  
  • Feeling guilty, shameful or worthless 
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns  
  • Withdrawing from family or friends 
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby  

Some individuals may be more at risk for PPD depending on their history of depression, childhood trauma, previous problems in pregnancy or birth, history of abuse, lack of support, and stressful life events. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns about your risk, speak to your doctor and care team. PPD requires treatment to feel better. Your doctor can work with you to identify resources and get you the help you may need.  

Help is available. You can call 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) for 24/7 free confidential support. If you are in mental health distress or have a suicidal crisis, call 911 or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free and confidential support.  

How to prepare for your appointment

  • Be sure to write down any questions or concerns you might have about postpartum care, breastfeeding, contraception, or other topics. This will help you remember to bring it up with your doctor during your appointment.   
  • Bring a list of all the medications you are taking. This includes both over the counter and prescription medications. If you were on hormone therapy prior to pregnancy, be sure to have a timely dialogue with your provider for guidance on when it is safe to resume, especially as it pertains to chestfeeding.
  • If you are chestfeeding, let your doctor know. They may want to give you different instructions for your pelvic exam or other tests. Transgender patients should also speak to their providers about the advantages and disadvantages of chestfeeding. 

Remember, it is important to be open and honest with your doctor about how you are feeling – both physically and emotionally. They are there to help ensure you and your baby are healthy.