What can you expect at your six week postnatal check-up? Find out more about the checks you will receive post pregnancy to see if you are recovering well after giving birth.
This article covers the following information on your 6-week postnatal check-up:
- Why is there a six-week check-up?
- What happens at the postnatal check-up?
- The six-week check is not a deadline
Around six to eight weeks after the birth of your baby, you should arrange for a postnatal check-up with your GP, unless you've been offered an appointment to return to the hospital or midwifery unit where you gave birth.
This postnatal check-up is about making sure you're feeling well and recovering as expected after your pregnancy and birth experience. It's also an opportunity to introduce your baby to your GP. Most importantly, this is a chance to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
Some women can be surprised at how quick the postpartum check-up is and that there isn't always a physical examination or detailed questions asked. You can help to make sure this check is useful for you by thinking about what you would like to talk about beforehand. As life in the early weeks can be busy and tiring, it may help to write down your questions to take along so you don't forget what you want to ask.
There are no UK wide guidelines on what should happen at this 6 week check-up and how long they are will also vary between surgeries. It's also true that the check itself might be handled differently by individual GPs or midwifes. In general, the following areas should be covered:
- Your general wellbeing - how have the first few weeks been for you? Are you coping OK? Do you feel you need extra support? Tommy's, a charity that funds research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage, has developed a Wellbeing Plan that could help you think about how you're feeling and what support you might need.
- Your perineum - does it feel OK? Did you have any stitches and, if so, does it feel as if it has healed? You may be offered an examination to see if your stitches have healed and that all the muscles used during labour and delivery are returning to normal.
- If you had a caesarean, has the scar healed well?
- Your blood pressure will be checked.
- Your lochia (the discharge you have after birth) - is it still there or not and how heavy is it? When might you start your period?
- Changes to your body post-birth. You may be weighed and you can get weight loss advice if you want it.
- Feeding – if you're breastfeeding, how's it going? Do you need any support? Do you have any symptoms you're not sure about?
- Your bladder and bowels - are you comfortable and feeling back to normal?
- Contraception should always be discussed at this check so find out what your options are. You can also discuss any concerns or questions you might have about sex.
Do tell your GP if:
- you're having trouble holding urine or wind, or you are soiling yourself and/or
- you're feeling very tired, low or depressed.
In the past, new mums would have a vaginal examination at this check to make sure their womb has gone back to its previous size. However, it's now recommended that this examination is only done if a new mum is experiencing problems. You can discuss this with your GP or midwife.
It's worth saying that there can be an expectation that the six-week check is a deadline or marker by which women should be feeling 'normal' and able to resume exercise, have sex again and generally feel like themselves. The reality is, of course, that it usually takes much longer to recover from the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and childbirth.
It's also important to note that your GP surgery might not automatically send you an appointment for your six-week check so you might need to request one yourself. We'd suggest requesting a double appointment - one for you and one for your baby - so you have time to talk about how you're doing as well as your baby. Some surgeries will do this while others might not.
The six-week check is most importantly a chance for you to discuss any questions or concerns at this stage. At six to eight weeks after birth, most women will still be in a period of recovery and adjustment, as they regain their strength and get used to life with their baby.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 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.