New Guidelines Say Postpartum Moms Need More Frequent Checkups After Baby
Good news postpartum moms! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have finally updated their postpartum standards to recommend that mothers who are postpartum receive checkups sooner and more frequently after giving birth.
Wait. You mean to tell me that expecting women to survive on their own with just a 15-minute check-up when their baby is 6 weeks postpartum and their primary concern during that visit is just making it through without the baby screaming the whole time (because of course they have to bring the baby with them) isn't the ideal norm to set for optimum health for new moms? I'm shocked!
Seriously though, this update is long overdue and we can only hope that doctors actually start implementing it sooner rather than later. (Because you know that “recommendations” can take some time before they are actually translated into real-life action.) But the point is, the new guidelines are a step in the right direction towards supporting mothers postpartum–which ultimately, benefits the whole family and society too. Really though; when postpartum moms aren't supported after birth, it's a trickle-down effect that spreads wider than you can even imagine.
The official committee opinion from the ACOG is from May 2018, but the ideas that the committee presented are important to note because they essentially change everything about how postpartum care is currently managed in mothers who have given birth in the United States. You can read the full statement from the ACOG here, but essentially, here are the highlights the committee presented:
Postpartum is a critical time.
Aside from seeing the postpartum period as kind of an afterthought after the main event of giving birth, which is how a lot of us in the U.S. tend to view it (maternity leave = vacation, right?), the ACOG clearly defined that the weeks after giving birth are “a critical period for a woman and her infant, setting the stage for long-term health and well-being.”
Checkups should be on-going.
Remember that whole one-and-done visit that currently marks the postpartum period for us moms? Yeah, that's not going to fly anymore. The ACOG noted that postpartum care should be ” an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter, with services and support tailored to each woman’s individual needs.” Yeesssssss!
The first check-up should happen within 3 weeks.
Yup, not six weeks or later. You need support the most right after giving birth when things are leaking and you're healing and the baby won't stop crying and you're left wondering if you've made a horrible, terrible mistake.
That first check-up is just the start.
Along with that first check-up, the ACOG says there should be follow-up “ongoing care.” What does that actually mean? Well, it means that if your doctor doesn't schedule regular checkups for you, you should have no qualms about scheduling them yourself if you need extra help or support. And yes, just talking to your doctor counts as a necessary check-up too!
You need a full postpartum checkup no later than 12 weeks.
That doesn't mean just the green light to have sex again, people. According to the ACOG, a “comprehensive postpartum visit” should include a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being, including the following domains: mood and emotional well-being; infant care and feeding; sexuality, contraception, and birth spacing; sleep and fatigue; physical recovery from birth; chronic disease management; and health maintenance. And if you have any medical issues on top of being postpartum, those need to be addressed too.
It's not all on you, mama.
One of the most interesting parts about the guidelines is a sentence at the end that might be easy to miss, but here's what it says: “During the postpartum period, the woman and her obstetrician-gynecologist or other obstetric care provider should identify the health care provider who will assume primary responsibility for her ongoing care in her primary medical home.” Did you catch that? That's saying that, contrary to popular belief, taking charge of your own health and your baby's health at the same time should never be just your responsibility. Just like any other member of your family needs help getting cared for in times of need, so do you, mama! We like to assume mama's got it all under control from the get-go, but it's critical that there is someone looking out for you too–so have a discussion with your partner or your support team about how to make that happen.
Of course, change can be slow to actually take place and the ACOG does note that all of these changes will require not only policy changes but also changes in how insurance covers postpartum care, but until that happens, you can rest assured that your health after baby matters too–and it's OK to get help along the way.