While giving birth may be a normal process, some women experience physical and psychological aftershocks, and it’s vital that your doctor sees how you’re healing after delivery, says Dr Mapendo Ndwekwe, a Pretoria-based gynaecologist and obstetrician.
Around six weeks after the birth of your baby, you should arrange for a postnatal check-up with your doctor. This check-up is a great opportunity for you to consult your doctor about any concerns you have following the birth of your baby. Most doctors and midwives have a list of issues that need special attention after you give birth.
Physical and internal exam:
You will be weighed and have your blood pressure checked. Your doctor will also perform an internal exam to check your vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries for tears, bruising and growths. Your doctor will also be checking that your reproductive organs are returning to their pre-pregnancy state, explains Dr Ndwekwe. “You will probably also have a Pap smear at this time,” she adds.
“If you had an episiotomy or a tear during a vaginal delivery, checking the incision is the first thing on your doctor’s list,” says Dr Ndwekwe. If you had a C-section, you will probably have a preliminary incision checkup between one and two weeks post birth and another at six weeks. If you notice unusual redness, pain or fluid coming from an incision, contact your doctor immediately.
Your breasts go through many changes during pregnancy and after delivery. It’s important for your doctor to make sure that no issues have developed. Your doctor will check your breasts for blocked milk ducts, lumps or other abnormalities. If you are experiencing any particular pain or discomfort during or after feeding, tell your doctor about it so he can check for any underlying issues.
As you recover from the physical changes that you have undergone, you will also experience many emotional changes and stresses. Dr Ndwekwe advises you to be open with your doctor about how you’re feeling emotionally. Depending on how you feel, your doctor might do a quick postpartum depression screening, which will help your doctor assess whether you need further professional help. It’s important to be honest about how you’re feeling and ask for help if you need it.
Back on track:
If all is well with your health and wellbeing, your doctor will give you the all clear to resume normal activity such as exercise, heavy lifting and sex. He will also talk to you about birth-control options. Keep in mind that every doctor will handle postnatal checkups differently and time limitations could leave you feeling that all your concerns haven’t been addressed, so prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask him anything – regardless of how silly you might think it is. Your doctor is there to help you, not to judge you. Getting the answers you need will make the transition to motherhood much smoother.