You’re emerging from the newborn fog and it’s time to check in with your GP. Here’s what happens in your six-week check…
What you need to know about the six-week check
About six weeks after you give birth, your baby should have a check-up with your GP and you should have a postnatal check-up appointment. This is often called the six-week check. Yours and your baby’s check-ups might be combined but to allow enough time for you to discuss everything you want to; it's a good idea to book two separate appointments (NHS, 2018a).
In England, our #HiddenHalf campaign won funding for a dedicated six-week postnatal check for mums – so you should be offered a separate appointment to your baby. This is important to allow you the time and space to talk about your mental and physical health.
Your baby’s six-week appointment is a chance for your GP to give your baby a check-up to make sure they’re well. Your postnatal check-up is to see how you’re doing after the birth and how you’re feeling as a new mum.
Some GP surgeries don’t routinely offer you a postnatal check-up so you might have to request it. If you have any worries or just want to ask a few questions, do give your surgery a call.
What happens at your six-week postnatal check?
What your six-week check involves can vary depending on your GP practice and how long your appointment is. The GP might do a physical examination if they think it’s necessary.
Your GP is there to help you, not judge you. So try to remember it’s ok to tell them about any worries and concerns you might have.
Unlike when they do your baby’s checks, GPs have no set guidelines for what to discuss during your six-week postnatal check.
Here are some of the topics and checks that might be covered…
How you’re feeling
You can discuss how you’re feeling, any worries and your mental health and wellbeing. Your GP might consider your risk of postnatal depression and anxiety, including whether you’ve had any mental health concerns before.
Our research shows that half of postnatal mental illness isn’t picked up, so if you have any concerns at all about your mental health, please do mention it. The earlier problems can be identified, the better, so try to bring up any worries you have, no matter how small you might think they are.
They might ask about your lifestyle too, such as what support you have at home or how well you’re sleeping.
Bleeding after birth
After birth, you will experience some vaginal bleeding and your GP will normally ask about this. They’ll also ask whether you’ve had a period since the birth. Read more about what you might expect to see in our article about bleeding after birth.
If you had an episiotomy, they might offer to check your stitches or ask how they’re feeling (NHS, 2016b). If you have discomfort around your perineum (the part between your bum and vagina), your GP should check to make sure it’s healing well (NHS, 2017a).
Your GP might feel your tummy to make sure your uterus has gone back into its old position. If you had a caesarean birth, your GP might offer to check your scar (NHS, 2016b).
Sex and contraception
At this point, it may well be the furthest thing from your mind but you can ask about sex after birth, if you’d like to.
Your GP will also probably ask you what contraception you now plan to use. Yes, you can get pregnant again pretty soon after birth! They can outline your options and give you a prescription if needed (NHS, 2017b).
Going to the toilet
Your GP might ask you about your toilet habits and if you leak any wee when you cough or laugh. Don’t be embarrassed or worried if you do; incontinence after childbirth is common (Thom and Rortveit, 2010).
Pelvic floor exercises can really help with incontinence so ask your GP about them if you need information or tips.
Some women also find they fart or poo when they don’t mean to after giving birth. Embarrassing as it may feel to talk to the doctor about this if you’re experiencing it, do make sure you mention it to them (UCLA Health, 2018).
Your breasts and feeding
Your GP might ask you about how breastfeeding is going and whether you have any symptoms of anything like mastitis. They might be able to give you details about feeding support if you need any and might examine you if there’s a problem with pain.
Your GP might ask about any varicose veins, swelling or any symptoms you’re having with your legs that might suggest a blood clot.
If your BMI is 30 or more, your GP might ask to weigh you. They can advise you on healthy eating and postnatal exercise too.
If you had a medical problem when you were pregnant or if a previous issue got worse, your GP might give you a check-up to see how things are going. For example, your GP will normally check your blood pressure if you had problems during pregnancy or right after the birth (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, 2016). They will also do blood tests if needed, for example to check for anaemia
Rescheduling a smear test
If your smear test was due while you were pregnant, it can be rearranged for 12 weeks after you gave birth (NHS, 2018b).
This is your check
The six-week postnatal check is all about you so talk through anything you need to. You might find it useful to jot down some questions or points in advance (NHS, 2016a). That way nothing will slip your (probably sleep-deprived) mind.
Partners are welcome to come too so ask yours along if you’d like them to.
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].
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. (2017a) Episiotomy and perineal tears. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/episiotomy/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2017b) 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) Newborn physical examination. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/newborn-physical-exam/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
NHS. (2018b) Cervical screening. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/ [last accessed 22 April 2018].
NHS. (2018d) MMR vaccine. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-vaccine/ [last accessed 22nd April 2018].
Thom DH, Rortveit G. (2010) Prevalence of postpartum urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21050146 (Accessed 1st May 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].