Your baby will have a six week check and you should have one too, yet some mums’ checks are all too brief. Here’s how to get the most out of it…
What might my postnatal check involve?
Six-week postnatal checks can vary depending on your GP practice and how long your appointment is. They also vary because GPs have no set guidelines for what to check with you at this appointment. Our #HiddenHalf campaign won funding for a dedicated six-week postnatal check for all mums in England, so if you live in England then bear in mind you're entitled to this.
The six-week check is a great opportunity to discuss any problems or questions you’re having. You can also ask your GP to examine you if you feel something’s wrong. It’s all too easy to say everything’s ok when you’re not feeling ok – and that’s when a checklist comes in handy.
Checklist: what to think about before your six-week check-up
Here’s what might be covered in your six-week check. Try to have a think about them beforehand. You could make a list to take with you covering everything you’d like to chat with your GP about (NHS, 2016a).
- How you are really feeling (see below)? And do you feel supported?
- Vaginal discharge – have you had a period since giving birth? Do you have any unusual discharge, for example large blood clots or symptoms of thrush?
- If you had a caesarean birth, episiotomy or tear - are your stitches healing OK? Do you feel any pain?
- Going to the toilet – are you leaking any wee? Are you farting or pooing when you didn’t mean to? Are you experiencing any pain when you go for a poo?
- Would you like some advice about doing pelvic floor exercises?
- Breast health and feeding – if you’re breastfeeding, is it going ok? Do you have any mastitis symptoms?
- Legs – do you have any varicose veins? Do you have any swelling or any leg symptoms that might suggest a blood clot?
- Weight – would you like some advice on healthy eating or exercise?
- Medical problems – did you have a medical problem that appeared or worsened in pregnancy that the GP should check up on?
- Contraception – do you plan to use it and if so, what type would you prefer?
- Smear test – did you miss a smear test because you were pregnant and need to reschedule it?
- MMR – have you had two doses of MMR? You can have them done by your practice nurse but should avoid getting pregnant until a month after having an MMR vaccination.
(Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, 2016; NHS, 2016b; NHS, 2017; NHS, 2018a; NHS, 2018b; NHS, 2018c; UCLA Health, 2018)
Your GP is there to help, so do try to share any worries and concerns you have.
How do you really feel?
Becoming a parent is a massive life change, and it's totally normal to feel overwhelmed after you give birth. But if your feelings start to affect how you live your life, you might have a mental health problem (Mind, 2016a).
Is it common to feel like this?
Some sources say around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth (MIND, 2016a). Yet a survey by NCT found that half of new mothers experience emotional problems during this time. Sadly, as many as 60% of these mothers who were experiencing emotional problems felt too worried or ashamed to be able to discuss them (NCT, 2017).
So if you are experiencing emotional problems, you’re certainly not alone (Mind, 2016b).
What can the GP do?
You could speak to your GP about getting some help and support, and take a look at the support details in the Further information section below. It’s definitely worth discussing any problems as 82% of women say that treatment really does help (NCT, 2017).
Just don’t forget that list…
This page was last reviewed in May 2021.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Help us get postnatal mental illness out of hiding with our #HiddenHalf campaign. We're demanding dedicated postnatal check-ups so all new mothers can get the mental health support they need. Email your MP today and help us make this change.
You might also like to try one of our Mother and Baby Yoga courses, which aim to help improve your physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as feel more confident and positive.
Mind, a leading mental health charity, provides information on a range of mental health topics including postnatal depression and has an infoline for support: 0300 123 3393.
#PNDHour is an online peer support group that runs every Wednesday at 8pm via the Twitter account @PNDandMe. Anyone can join in to discuss topics about antenatal and postnatal depression, such as self-care, medication and seeking help. It’s run by a mum called Rosey who also blogs about her own experiences with antenatal and postnatal depression, as well as raising awareness of perinatal mental illness, at PND and me.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has information on mental health in pregnancy.
Effective psychotherapeutic treatments can be found in your area. Check out the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) for a list of recommended therapists.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. (2016) Postnatal hypertension (high blood pressure). Available at: https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/maternity/postnatal-hypertension.pdf [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NCT. (2017) The hidden half. Bringing postnatal mental illness out of hiding. Available at: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/NCT%20The%20Hidden%20Half%20shortform%5B1%5D_0.pdf [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2016a) Your six-week postnatal check. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/postnatal-check/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2016b) Caesarean section. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2017) When can I use contraception after having a baby? Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-contraception-after-baby/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2018a) Cervical screening. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/ [last accessed 22 April 2018].
NHS. (2018b) Vagina changes after childbirth. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/vagina-health/Pages/vagina-after-childbirth.aspx [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2018c) MMR vaccine. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-vaccine/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
Mind. (2016a) Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health. Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/#.WtiaSWaZPwc [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
Mind. (2016b) Understanding postnatal depression and perinatal mental health. Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/media/4852718/understanding-postnatal-depression-2016.pdf [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
UCLA Health. (2018) Childbirth and incontinence. Things you should know. Available at: http://obgyn.ucla.edu/childbirth-and-incontinence [last accessed 22nd April 2018].