What is the postpartum period?
When thinking about maternity care, usually pregnancy, labor, and delivery are what come to mind. The postpartum period, however, is equally as important. The postpartum period is defined as the six weeks following delivery of your baby1.
The period after your baby’s arrival can be a busy and stressful time. Sometimes called the “fourth trimester,” the weeks after birth represent a period of major adjustments and new beginnings. Despite having new responsibilities, it is important that you continue prioritizing your own health in addition to your newborn’s.
What is postpartum care and why is it important?
The postpartum period is a critical time for you and your new baby, as you will also experience several physical, social, and psychological changes. These include learning how to care for and feed a baby, alterations to hormone levels, and physical recovery from delivery. Some women may also experience breastfeeding trouble, mental health problems, stress, fatigue, pain, changes to sexual function, and other complications associated with delivery. While the “fourth trimester” can be a happy and exciting time, you will require support from both your providers and loved ones2.
Postpartum care is incredibly important as it ensures that you are recovering properly from labor and delivery. It also provides you with the opportunity to communicate with your provider, asking any questions or concerns you have regarding the physical, social, and emotional changes you are experiencing after birth3.
Postpartum care is often not emphasized enough. In fact, only 58 percent of women go to their own postnatal visits and only 28 percent of women bring their babies for a postnatal check-up1.
Sometimes, postpartum care can get lost in translation. Communication may be lost between providers as you transition from delivery at the hospital to care in the outpatient setting. Postpartum services can also be disjointed, as you and your baby will be seeing both maternal and pediatric healthcare providers3.
What does postpartum care look like?
After having your baby, it is important to keep your relationship with your obstetrician and communicate any questions or concerns you have post-birth. Your obstetrician will ensure that your labor and delivery recovery is going smoothly and work with you to create a postpartum care plan tailored to your needs.
The World Health Organization suggests that you and your newborn have at least three postpartum visits after delivery. The first should be within 48 to 72 hours after birth, the second between day seven and 14, and the third at six weeks postpartum. Visits to your healthcare provider after delivery may include:
- Evaluation of your newborn’s general health status and growth
- Checking in on your recovery process (e.g., from a Cesarean section)
- Help with breastfeeding
- Treatment of complications due to childbirth
- Screening for postpartum depression
- Discussion regarding birth control and family planning options
- A pelvic exam1
To better the health of you and your newborn after delivery, be sure to engage in postpartum care. Postpartum care should be an ongoing process and not just a single visit. Additionally, your care should be unique to your individual needs and circumstances2.
- Postnatal care. (2015, February 16). Maternal Health Task Force.
- Optimizing postpartum care. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2021.
- Jenkins, D. (2021, November 17). Know about importance of postnatal care katy tx. Blog.