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Pregnancy is a time of plenty of changes. Nine months of nurturing a baby within your body takes a physical toll, and also affect you psychologically. A postpartum examination is important, as many women face aftershocks and may not heal well after the delivery. This checkup gives you an idea of how your body is coping and healing after the tedious process that is delivery, and will help the doctor treat you if there are any difficulties for your body in getting back to its previous self.
Why You Need a Postnatal Checkup
Your body is expected to change radically in the six weeks post labour, and a postpartum checkup gives your doctor and you an idea of how far along you are in your healing process. For example, if you had a C-section, your doctor will check on the incision during the examination. However, a postpartum checkup is not just about the physical condition of the new mother – it evaluates you psychologically, too. The doctor examines how you are doing emotionally, and what your needs may be going forward. You may also have many nagging doubts and childbirth-related aches all over the body, and the checkup takes care of all that, too.
What to Expect at a Postpartum Checkup
Here’s what you should know about what happens at a postnatal checkup. During the checkup, your doctor will assess your physical and emotional well-being in the period after labour. You can expect the following topics to be broached during the checkup:
1. Physical Checkup
The doctor takes your blood pressure and weight, and checks your abdomen to get an idea of your physical status. He may also examine your vagina and the uterus, to see if the cuts and bruises in the area, if any, have been healed. The shrinkage of the uterus is also checked to determine whether it has shrunk back to its normal size. All of this is done to know how your body is healing physically.
2. Emotional Wellbeing
The doctor will check up on how you are doing as a new mother. Motherhood can be hard, especially if this is your first time. Thus, it is important that you discuss even the smallest of doubts with the doctor. Around 30 percent of new mothers exhibit postpartum depression, and its intensity can greatly vary. The doctor may check for symptoms of depression.
3. Breast Examination
Breastfeeding is important for the baby. The doctor will examine your breasts physically, and ask you whether you are able to breastfeed the child without any difficulties. Lumps, cracked nipples, tenderness, redness, and similar problems are common in mothers, along with bacterial infections. This results in blocked milk ducts, which have to be corrected using medicines.
4. Family Planning
During the checkup, your doctor may also give you insights into birth control methods and family planning advice, if you are thinking about having another baby. The birth control pill you take currently might be unsuitable while you are breastfeeding, so that might be changed. The doctor will also suggest the time from when you can have sex with your partner, along with suggestions as to when you should have your next child.
5. Diet/Fitness Routine
Pregnancy is one of the most challenging phases of a woman’s life, but the weeks post delivery are not a cakewalk, either. Owing to the large number of changes the body goes through in a short time, it is possible that the body may not be coping with them very well. Your doctor gives you tips on how to deal with the physical changes your body is undergoing, and the essential items which must be included in your diet for getting your body back to normal. Kegel exercises might also be suggested, in order to retain your vaginal elasticity after childbirth.
6. Tests and Immunisations
If you had any deficiencies or conditions during the time of pregnancy, they are also checked during the examination. A blood cell count for anaemic mothers is a common example. You may also be given certain vaccinations or immunisations, which the doctor might deem necessary. However, if you seem to be facing any health problems before the date of your scheduled checkup, do not wait – visit the doctor immediately.
Questions You Should Ask at Your Postnatal Examination
1. Were there any issues with the delivery I should know about?
In most cases, the mother is sure to have known about any unexpected complications that may have arisen during labour. However, it is not a bad idea to ask again.
2. Is postpartum bleeding normal?
Most mothers have postpartum bleeding, but it is supposed to have reduced to light spotting by six weeks.
3. What can I do about the postnatal pain?
Pain is common in the pelvic area after labour, but it is manageable in most cases using ice packs and cooling pads. However, you may require pain medication if you had a C-section.
4. When can I start exercising again?
Light walking and upper body exercises are nothing to worry about, although you should get the green light from your doctor first if you had a complicated labour, delivery, or C-section.
5. When can I start having sex again?
Most doctors give their patients the green light after six weeks during the postpartum examination. If you find that your sex drive has decreased, don’t worry – it is completely normal, and will increase soon.
6. What are the breastfeeding ‘Dos and Don’ts’?
Breastfeeding is one of the most important activities a mother can do for the benefit of the child, it being absolutely essential during the first six months of the child’s life. Breast milk is the right mix of all the nutrients a baby needs, and it also strengthens the immune system of the child to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Breastfeeding also has another unexpected benefit – it helps moms lose weight! This makes it easier to lose your baby weight after pregnancy.
Any prescribed medication that you want to consume has to be checked with the doctor, though generally, over-the-counter medicines do not do any harm to the baby while you are breastfeeding. It is also perfectly fine for the mother to have alcohol, like a glass of wine, before breastfeeding. However, you must remember not to feed the child for a couple of hours after you have had alcohol, in order to keep the child safe from the effects of alcohol.
7. Which postpartum birth control options are safe?
During your postpartum checkup, it is important to discuss which birth control options are fine after pregnancy. You can discuss your family planning ideas with your doctor, so that he can prescribe the right method. For the first six weeks, abstinence or the progesterone-only method is best – this ensures that your milk supply is not affected. After that, any method can be used by the mother.
8. What if I am suffering from postpartum depression?
During the postnatal examination procedure, your doctor is sure to examine whether you are suffering from postpartum depression. It is a condition that affects around 30 percent of moms after delivery, and will mostly occur due to changes in hormone levels and fatigue in the body. Remember that this is normal for mothers. If you find that you have more anxiety than you can cope with, consult your doctor at the earliest.
9. Will I need any vaccines?
Another topic that comes up during the postnatal examination of mothers is vaccination. There are some vaccinations that you cannot get when you are pregnant, like chicken pox and measles. These may be administered to you and your baby after the child is born, so you may be brought up to date on that front.
Postpartum examinations are important to gauge the health of the mother, both physically and emotionally. It gives you and your doctor an idea about how you are faring, and can provide you with much-needed advice as to how to tackle motherhood. At your checkup, always ask any doubts you may have, and remember that no question is dumb when it comes to the health of you and your child!