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October 26, 2020 • read
Postpartum checkup Q&A
As a soon-to-be mom, you’ve likely put a lot of time into planning and thinking about your labour and delivery. You’ve probably also had tons of help planning your baby shower and picking out baby clothes. But a lot less thought goes into the postpartum period for you, the mom. We know that a lot can happen when you have a new baby. And if you have an OB/GYN, your postpartum checkup won’t happen until six weeks after your baby is born. So here’s how to prep for that postpartum checkup, and some of the info you’ll want to know ahead of time.
Why do I have stomach pain after giving birth?
Your body isn’t finished changing the minute your baby is born. Most of us know about the baby blues and the risk of postpartum depression, but you can expect some major physical changes as well. The first is that your uterus starts to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. This causes contractions that can feel like super painful postpartum menstrual cramps. Coupled with lochia (the post-partum vaginal discharge containing mucus and blood), it may seem like you’re getting your period, but you’re not. Your cramps should decrease in intensity within two or three days.
Why does breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding can be hard! While some women experience some discomfort for a day or two when they first start, pain during breastfeeding isn’t normal. If you’ve been doing it for a few days and you’re still in pain, it’s a good idea to speak to a lactation consultant.
What to expect at your postpartum checkup
There’s no cost for either a postnatal doctor visit or one with a midwife (as long as you’re a Canadian citizen). But while both provide proper postnatal care, there are some key differences. How many postnatal visits you have, for example, depends on whether you choose an OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist) or a midwife for your labour and delivery. If you have an OB, you’ll have a single visit with them in their office six weeks after your baby is born. If you’re working with a midwife, however, your postpartum care will be on an ongoing basis. In Canada, most midwives come to your house within 48 hours after birth to assess the baby which gives them an opportunity to check up on you as well. Depending on your situation, you’ll have around four follow-up visits with your midwife in your home and their office before they discharge you at your six-week appointment.
Whether you work with an OB/GYN or a midwife, both will take your blood pressure and ask about your physical and emotional state. They’ll both ask you about your lochia to make sure it’s a normal amount and colour and feel your stomach area to make sure your uterus is shrinking. You can also expect a pelvic exam at your six-week checkup in both cases. This isn’t as involved as a Pap smear — it’s just to check that your reproductive organs are returning to their pre-pregnancy state. If you had stitches after labour because of tearing or an episiotomy, your healthcare provider can also take this opportunity to make sure you’re healing properly.
What to expect after your postpartum checkup
Once you’ve had your six-week checkup, your midwife or your OB will discharge you back to your family doctor. But that doesn’t mean your body is back to “normal.” Having a baby and breastfeeding cause a range of changes is the body — everything from mood swings to vaginal bleeding after your six-week postpartum checkup. Your body does eventually adapt to your new role as a parent, but certain things like vaginal dryness can last for quite a while (potentially for as long as you breastfeed). Keeping hydrated and using a water-based lubricant during sex can help, but speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
You’ve packed your hospital bag and likely filled the closet with cute outfits for the baby, but don’t forget yourself! Your postpartum body needs some TLC. Here are some great things to have on hand for the postpartum period.
- Postpartum pads — you’ll need these for about four to six weeks after the baby is born for lochia. Just make sure to stay away from pads with dry weave — they’ll irritate your stitches.
- A perineal spray bottle — you’ll probably get one at the hospital, but it’s nice to have an extra on hand. You’ll need it for cleaning your perineal area after using the bathroom.
- Ibuprofen (Advil) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help deal with postpartum uterine contractions. Both are safe to take while breastfeeding.
- Prepared meals. You’ve just given birth and have a tiny human who’s now dependent on you for life. The last thing you want to be thinking about is “what’s for dinner?”
- Fruit-filled muffins and other healthy snacks. Breastfeeding can make you crazy hungry, grab-and-go snacks are a must-have.
Your baby isn’t the only person needing rest and care after labour and delivery. The postpartum period can be such a jarring time of transition that it’s sometimes called the fourth trimester. Knowing what you’re in for can help to make it a bit less difficult. So take some time to prepare and have extra support on hand in case you need it.