What to Expect at a Postpartum Checkup—And Why the Visit Matters
Dr. Diana Ramos explains how ob-gyns can help new moms with recovery after childbirth.
Postpartum checkups with an ob-gyn are a key opportunity to make sure new moms stay healthy. This critical “fourth trimester”—the time of recovery after giving birth—is a chance to set the stage for a new mom’s best possible health, now and in the future.
In the weeks after birth, many moms struggle with anxiety, pain, fatigue, and other concerns. If you are having a hard time, you are not alone. Ob-gyns can help moms with these problems—don’t feel embarrassed asking for help. Care and treatment can make life better for you and your family.
Postpartum checkups give ob-gyns and moms the chance to address problems early. Here’s what you can expect during a checkup, plus some context about the process.
Checkups can give you and your ob-gyn a full picture of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Your ob-gyn should do a physical exam, including a pelvic exam, to make sure you’re healing well from the birth.
They should also ask questions to find out if you’re having any of the problems new moms often struggle with. These include
problems with feeding or other newborn care
poor sleep, fatigue, pain, or bleeding
leaking urine or pain when you urinate
gas and constipation
emotional support and help with childcare, chores, transportation, and meals
basic needs, such as food, diapers, and money for bills
Your ob-gyn should ask about your sexual health too. Together you can talk about
birth control and choosing the best method for you
timing for future pregnancies
Postpartum checkups can help you prevent future medical problems. Pregnancy is a window into your health for the rest of your life. If you had high blood pressure while pregnant, for example, your risk for heart disease later in life may be higher. The same is true for gestational diabetes and developing diabetes in the future. But there are many things you and your doctors can do to reduce these risks.
During your postpartum checkup, your ob-gyn should explain the kind of ongoing care you may need for any medical problems and help you connect with health care professionals who can provide it.
Ideally, you can have several postpartum checkups. Postpartum checkups used to always be limited to one visit, 4 to 6 weeks after birth. But it’s hard to cover everything needed to ensure mom’s health in one 30-minute visit.
That’s why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now advises that new moms connect with their ob-gyns several times during the 12 weeks after birth.
The first checkup should be within 3 weeks. That visit gives your ob-gyn a chance to find out how you’re feeling and help with any problems you’re having early on. If you had high blood pressure during pregnancy, you should have a checkup sooner, 3 to 10 days after birth. Then additional visits should be scheduled as needed, before a final checkup around 12 weeks after birth.
This brings me to a point about cultural differences. Women from some cultures have a tradition of not going anywhere for 40 days after giving birth. There are good reasons for these traditions, and I respect them. Still, I point out that there are major medical problems any woman can have soon after childbirth, and you may miss the warning signs without a doctor.
Learn how much postpartum care your insurance covers. The change to multiple postpartum checkups is still new, so your insurance may not cover more than one visit. The best time to find out what your insurance covers is before your baby is born.
Staying healthy involves ongoing ob-gyn visits, even after the postpartum period. Before your last postpartum visit, your ob-gyn should help make sure you’re set up to continue your care with routine visits. These visits can give you ongoing help with any concerns, and they are a chance for continued screening and prevention of future health problems.
Don’t skip your postpartum checkup. You may feel you have reasons for skipping. Maybe you feel fine and don’t need another thing on your list. You may not have an easy way to get to your ob-gyn’s office. But it’s still important to seek care.
You can ask your ob-gyn’s office about having a phone or video call instead of an in-person visit. This is called telehealth, and it’s an option that is far more common now than before the coronavirus pandemic. If you have an in-person visit, ask whether you can bring your baby or other children with you to the visit if needed.
Whether your care is online or in person, what matters is just that you have it—for your own health and that of your baby, now and in the future.
Published: February 2022
Last reviewed: February 2022
Copyright 2022 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.