Why You Need a 28-Week Postpartum Check-Up
Most of us have heard of going for a six-week postpartum check-up, but what about a 28-week postpartum check-up?
According to Dr. Alyssa Berlin, PsyD, founder of The AfterBirth Plan, the 28-week postpartum check-up could, and should be, a new standard for women's postpartum care. In a podcast on Mom & Mind, Dr. Berlin explained how there is such a focus on women preparing for their pregnancies and the actual birth and delivery part of parenthood, but when it comes to surviving and thriving after the baby is born?
Well, there's not as much help for moms there. And she's a doctor determined to change that.
Dr. Berlin is a proponent of planning for success in the postpartum stage from the very beginning of pregnancy, from preparing for the challenges you will face as a couple if you are part of a relationship to postpartum mood disorders. She noted that our old way of telling women and new parents that there was no real way to prepare or expect for parenthood, or that they should take a “wing it and hope for the best” approach, is not only very outdated but simply untrue. She pointed out that we now have studies and empirical evidence to support new parents with tools, resources, and research that can help them become happier, more effective parents. In her mind, it doesn't make a lot of sense to put so much emphasis on the birth, but not what comes after the birth.
“You have your birth plan, and that's great,” she said. “But what's your after-birth plan?”
She has started a movement towards making postpartum prep a normal part of prenatal care. So just like a doctor would check a pregnant woman's blood sugar or monitor their urine for protein, a doctor would monitor their postpartum preparation, making sure that they had arranged for support services or had an action plan in place if postpartum depression developed or had a counselor number stored and ready to go. As an example, she explained in the podcast that she is pushing for the mainstream implementation of the 28-week postpartum check-in during pregnancy.
How would it work? Well, the idea is actually incredibly simple. At a woman's 28-week pregnancy check-up, where she typically gets her blood sugar checked (which, by the way, is not an optional thing that doctors ask women, Dr. Berlin explains–they don't say, “Would you like your sugar checked?” but instead, they just check it!), the doctor would also say, “OK, now it's time to talk about what happens after this baby gets here.” The idea is that at 28 weeks of pregnancy, a doctor guides a pregnant patient to do at least one thing to prepare for postpartum.
“That's my goal,” she notes in the podcast.
What Dr. Berlin is trying to do is start a conversation about preparing for postpartum and parenthood during pregnancy so that no woman or couple gets to the baby part and starts wondering what's wrong with them or starts feeling anxious about needing help or wonders if they will be judged by their doctor for not being to handle it all. By openly discussing all of the challenges ahead of time and having a plan in place, parents can go into the sometimes difficult transition of the postpartum stage much more confident and prepared. And then, should they encounter an issue, they will have already discussed with their doctor and have knowledge ahead of time that what they are going through is normal–and have the resources and tools in place, thanks to their pregnancy postpartum plan, to deal with it.
Having a baby can throw a woman and a couple into a place that they never expected and when that woman is physically trying to heal, not sleeping, dealing with hormone changes that can affect her thoughts and moods, feeling like everything in her life, from even being able to shower, has shifted, and trying to navigate a relationship with this new baby and her partner?
Well, then we are setting up women to fail from the beginning. So, instead, Dr. Berlin wants to help women avoid getting to that place where they are taken by surprise by the transitions in postpartum and instead, empowered to make a plan during their pregnancy to be more equipped in the postpartum stage.
What is one thing that you can do now to prepare for postpartum?