What to Expect at Your Postpartum Checkup

Doctor talking to woman in examination room.

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Postpartum care has changed a lot in recent years. It used to be that you would see your OB-GYN or midwife about six weeks after delivery for a one-time postpartum checkup. In 2018, however, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists instead recommended making that care an ongoing process, tailored to your individual needs.

Now, you should have your first contact with your practitioner—either by phone or an office visit—by three weeks after giving birth. That discussion will determine your care going forward.

However, it's still recommended that you have a comprehensive checkup no later than 12 weeks after delivery. That visit will cover your complete physical, social, and psychological well-being, including your:

  • Physical recovery from birth
  • Sexuality, contraception, and birth spacing
  • Mood and emotional well-being
  • Infant care and feeding
  • Sleep and fatigue
  • Chronic disease management
  • Ongoing preventive health maintenance

Typically, this visit will be your last visit with your obstetrician or midwife unless you are having complications, but your care should continue as long as needed. Here's a closer look at what to expect at your checkup.

Undergo a Physical Exam

You will have a full physical exam, in which your practitioner may check your vagina and perineum, as well as do a Pap smear if you are due for one. You also may have other testing as needed, including blood work to screen for anemia.

Be sure to talk to your practitioner about any pains or soreness you are still experiencing. It's also a good idea to ask your doctor or midwife when you can have sex again.

Your doctor also will check to be sure your reproductive organs are returning to their pre-pregnancy state. Likewise, they will check your uterus for tenderness or a possible infection.

Your doctor or midwife will discuss breastfeeding and your plan for your baby's health care with you. Meanwhile, you can ask them about any concerns you have regarding your healing, weight, diet, and vitamins. Sometimes it's helpful to make a list of all the things you want to discuss. Once in the office, it's very common to forget something. To keep this from happening, come armed with your questions and concerns.

Discuss Birth Control Options

You may be surprised to learn that you can, in fact, become pregnant even while you're breastfeeding. Consequently, your doctor will likely discuss your birth control options at this visit.

Keep in mind, not all birth control options are appropriate for breastfeeding moms. So be sure to mention your breastfeeding status. For example, you may be limited in which hormonal methods of birth control are safe for you, your baby, and your milk supply. Common options for birth control include:

  • Birth control pills
  • Condoms
  • Diaphragm
  • Injectable birth control
  • Intrauterine devices (IUD)

Alternatively, if you're eager to become pregnant again, now is a good time to ask how long you should wait before trying to conceive. Remember, your body is still recovering. So, it's usually a good idea to wait a few months before trying for another baby.

Review Your Labor and Birth

This appointment is your opportunity to talk about your labor and delivery. You can clarify what happened or ask questions about things that occurred—especially if you aren't sure or didn't understand what was happening at the time.

You also may want to ask for a copy of your medical record. Remember that your hospital will have a separate record, so you will have to request those records from the hospital. It's always a good idea to keep copies of your records in case you decide to switch practices at some point.

If you experienced complications or challenges during your labor and delivery, you may want to ask for your practitioner's opinion on how this past experience will affect your options for future pregnancies and births. For example, if you had a cesarean section, you might want to ask whether you can have a vaginal birth next time. Many times the answer is yes, but it's always good to confirm with your doctor.

Get a Mental Health Check

While some providers forget to ask about your mental health, a good screening for postpartum depression is important. If your provider doesn't say anything, make sure you get your questions and concerns addressed. While feeling blue after your baby's birth can be normal, feelings that persist for more than two weeks could be an indication of a more serious problem.

While postpartum depression has received more attention in recent years, many women are still uncomfortable bringing up negative feelings around what is supposed to be a positive experience. But don't let this deter you.

Be honest with your practitioner about how you're feeling and what you're experiencing. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness nor is it an indicator that you're failing as a parent. Instead, it shows great courage to be transparent about how you're feeling about your new role.

Plus, postpartum depression is a very treatable condition, and most women begin feeling better soon after starting treatment. However, your practitioner cannot treat you if they don't know that you're struggling. So make sure you say something if you're having a hard time.

Say Goodbye

Even if it's only until your next annual exam, the end of your prenatal care can feel like a weird transition. After all, you've spent a lot of time in the office since you first found out that you were pregnant.

To remind you why you're there, consider bringing your baby along. Everyone is sure to be excited about seeing your little one. But you should ask someone to accompany you on the visit so they can help with the baby while the doctor is examining you.

If you experienced complications during your pregnancy or during the birthing process, you may find that your practitioner suggests a few additional appointments so that they can monitor your recovery. This suggestion is not at all unusual.

A Word From Verywell

While it can be tempting to skip your followup appointment, especially if life feels hectic with your new baby at home, it's important that you take care of yourself during this time period. You owe it to yourself and your new baby to practice self-care, including keeping your appointments with your doctors.

Plus, the consequences of skipping your appointment could be significant. For instance, you could experience incomplete healing, an infection, or an unwanted pregnancy.

If the thought of traveling to the doctor's office seems overwhelming, consider asking someone to go with you. This person can help with the baby while you're being examined and talking with the doctor.

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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Obstetric Practice. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 736: Optimizing Postpartum CareObstet Gynecol. 2018;131(5):e140-e150. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000002633

  2. Lopez LM, Grey TW, Stuebe AM, Chen M, Truitt ST, Gallo MF. Combined hormonal versus nonhormonal versus progestin-only contraception in lactation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(3):CD003988. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003988.pub2

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 205: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean DeliveryObstet Gynecol. 2019;133(2):e110-e127. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000003078