Your postpartum checkup
As a new mom, it’s important that you go for a postpartum checkup. This is a medical checkup you get about 6 weeks after having a baby to make sure you’re recovering well from labor and birth.
Go to your postpartum checkup, even if you’re feeling fine. It’s an important part of your overall pregnancy care. This visit is most likely covered by your health insurance, and most plans cover it without any co-pay. Check with your health insurance plan to find out. Look at the company’s website or call the number on your insurance card.
If you had a cesarean birth (also called a c-section), your health care provider may want to see you about 2 weeks after you give birth so she can check on your c-section incision (cut). A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus. Most c-section incisions heal without any problems, but some get infected.
What happens at a postpartum checkup?
Here’s what to expect at your postpartum checkup:
- You and your health care provider can talk about birth control. Birth control is things you can do to help keep you from getting pregnant. Examples of birth control include taking a birth control pill and using condoms.
- You can ask your provider questions about any problems you had during pregnancy, labor and birth. This is the time to talk about how you may be able to prevent problems in future pregnancies, even if you’re not thinking now about having another baby.
- You can share your feelings or concerns about being a new mom. It’s normal to feel tired and stressed in the weeks after birth. Tell your provider if you have feelings of sadness or worry that last for a long time. This is called postpartum depression (also called PPD). It’s a serious condition that can make it hard to live your life and take care of your baby. PPD can be treated. There are things you and your provider can do to help you feel better.
- Your provider checks on any health conditions you have, like diabetes and high blood pressure. If you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, your provider may give you a blood glucose test to check your blood sugar.
- You get a physical exam. Your provider checks your blood pressure, weight, breasts and belly.
- You get a pelvic exam. Your provider checks your vagina (birth canal), uterus (womb) and cervix to make sure they’re healthy. The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. If you had an episiotomy or other tear during birth, your provider checks to see that it’s healed. An episiotomy is a cut made at the opening of the vagina to help let the baby out.
- Your provider makes sure your vaccinations are up to date, including vaccinations for flu and pertussis.
Last reviewed January 2014
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Yes. Breastfeeding may decrease the odds of getting pregnant by delaying the return of a woman's menstrual period. However, breastfeeding does not prevent pregnancy, even if the mother is not getting a period. Many women ovulate before they see their period return. If you want to be certain not to conceive again until you and your partner are ready for another child, talk with your health care provider about when to return to using birth control. Note that some oral contraceptives that contain estrogen may decrease a woman's milk production. If you think this might be a problem for your milk supply, discuss different birth control options with your provider.
I just had a baby. How soon can I get pregnant again?
Most experts recommend that, after the birth of a child, you should wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again. This applies both in the case of a vaginal or cesarean birth. Waiting 18 months gives your body the time it needs to fully recover from the last pregnancy. It also helps prevent health risks during your next pregnancy, like premature birth or having a low-birthweight baby. Spacing pregnancies too close together also has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Frequent pregnancies can have an impact on the mother's health.
Sometimes it's not possible to wait so long, either because of your age or other reasons. The best thing to do is to talk with your health care provider about what’s best for you.
However, if you're planning to have more than one child, it's best to wait no more than five years between pregnancies.
What is a cesarean wound infection?
A cesarean (c-section) wound infection is caused when bacteria get inside the incision (cut) from a c-section. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus. Bacteria can cause the cut to get infected.
Signs of infection are fever and painful, red, swollen skin around the incision. Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs. Your provider may drain the incision to release the trapped bacteria.
Most c-section incisions heal without any problems. You’re more likely to get an infection if you:
- Abuse alcohol
- Have type 2 diabetes
- Are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
What is deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT)?
Deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT) is a blood clot inside a vein. DVT is rare, but it can be a serious health problem if it’s not treated. Without treatment, the blood clot can travel to your heart and lungs and block blood flow. This can cause chest pain, breathing problems and, in rare cases, even death.
Blood clots also can happen in the veins around your pelvic area. This is more common if you’ve had a cesarean birth (c-section). A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus.
Signs of DVT include a high fever and tenderness, pain or swelling in your leg, especially around your calf.
Hormonal changes make all women at risk for DVT after giving birth. Other risks for DVT include:
- Having a c-section—Your chances of having a DVT in your leg is about 3 to 5 times greater after a c-section than after a vaginal birth
- Being obese
- Being older than 35
- Not being able to walk around after surgery as much as your provider wants you to
If you think you may have DVT, call your health care provider immediately. You may need to go to the hospital. Your provider may give you a blood thinner to treat the clot and prevent any new clots.
What is endometritis?
Endometritis is infection of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus (womb). Bacteria that cause endometritis grow in the uterus lining, at the spot where the placenta breaks away after birth. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
Endometritis can spread through the uterus. Sometimes it reaches blood vessels in the ovaries and pelvis.
Endometritis usually happens 2 to 3 days after birth. If the infection isn’t treated, it can cause more serious health problems, like infertility.
Signs of endometritis include:
- Abnormal or vaginal discharge that smells bad
- General discomfort
- Tenderness or pain in your lower belly
Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs.
If your health provider finds that you have endometritis, antibiotics (medicines that kill infection caused by bacteria) can help clear up most cases.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is a breast infection that’s caused by bacteria. Bacteria usually get into the breast during breastfeeding.
Bacteria from your skin and your baby’s mouth can get into the breast through a crack in the skin of your nipple. Bacteria also can enter your breast through the opening to milk ducts in your nipple.
Signs of mastitis include:
- One or both of your breasts feel sore, hard and hot.
- One or both of your breasts swell and get red.
- You have a fever.
Mastitis can be painful, but it usually doesn’t lead to serious health problems. Your provider may give you antibiotics (medicines that kill infection caused by bacteria) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to reduce your fever and help you feel better.
Even though it may hurt, it’s best to keep breastfeeding or breast pumping if you have mastitis. This helps empty your breasts and takes away some of the painful pressure. You can’t pass the infection to your baby through breast milk, so it’s safe to keep breastfeeding.
What is postpartum bleeding?
Postpartum bleeding is bleeding from the vagina after giving birth. It’s normal. However, heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging) can be a sign of other health problems. The most common causes of serious, heavy bleeding after birth are:
- Uterine atony: This is when the muscle in your uterus (womb) doesn’t contract (tighten). When your uterus contracts, it helps manage bleeding. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If you have twins or a large baby, or if you are in labor for a long time, you may be at risk of having uterine atony.
- Retained placenta: During the third stage of labor, you deliver the placenta. If the placenta doesn’t pass within 30 minutes after your baby is born, you may have heavy bleeding.
- Tearing: If your vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus that sits on top of the vagina) is cut or torn during birth, you may bleed heavily.
If you have serious bleeding after birth, it most likely happens when you’re still in the hospital. Your health care provider may massage your uterus or give you fluids through an IV needle into your vein. This can help stop the bleeding. She also may give you oxytocin (a hormone that can help your uterus contract). In very rare cases, a woman may need surgery or a blood transfusion.
When will my period return after the baby is born?
Your period may start again 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth if you're not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, your period may not start again for months. Some women don't have a period again until they stop breastfeeding.