Your Post-Baby Checkup

It's vital that every woman has a postpartum checkup.

Reminder string tied around finger

You're existing on a few hours of sleep, trying to figure out how to soothe your incessantly fussy baby and adjusting to the fact that this tiny being rules the roost. Chances are, the last thing on your mind is your post-delivery doctor visit. But if you're thinking of ditching it, don't.

"It's vital that every woman has a postpartum checkup," says Dane Shipp, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist at Pacific Coast Women's Health in Encinitas, Calif. Here's what you need to know:

When it happens: According to Shipp, you'll likely need to see your obstetrician about six weeks post-delivery, whether you had a vaginal or Cesarean delivery.

"But if you have any problems such as excessive bleeding or problems with your breasts, or any other physical complaint, we'll want to see you sooner," he says. Also call your doctor if you're experiencing extreme moodiness, depression or disinterest in your baby.

Why it's important: In addition to checking on your physical health, your doctor will assess your mental and emotional state. "Fifteen to 30 percent of women experience postpartum depression, so we want to screen you for that," Shipp says.

What's done: Your doctor will check your blood pressure and pulse and perform a physical exam. He will also likely do the following:

  • Check your thyroid gland for any unusual swelling. (Thyroid disease is fairly common in postpartum women, according to Shipp.)
  • If you're nursing, examine your breasts for clogged ducts or the beginning of mastitis.
  • Palpate your abdomen to make sure your uterus has contracted back to its normal size.
  • Check any incision (C-section or episiotomy) you may have had to ensure proper healing.
  • Discuss birth-control options.

Remember... Your emotional health is as important as your physical health, and the newborn period can be difficult. Your doctor was there to see you through your entire pregnancy, and he's there to help you through the transition to motherhood. "This is a special opportunity to ensure you're getting everything you need, both physically and emotionally," Shipp says. "We want you to enjoy this time with your new baby that you've worked so hard to achieve."

There's also a personal element that Shipp enjoys: "It's the icing on the cake to see a healthy mom and her new baby. This gives us a chance to celebrate with our patients."