Around six to eight weeks following the birth of your baby we would expect you to have a maternal postnatal check along with, or around, the same time as baby has his/her 6-week check and 8-week immunisations.
By this time, you have had a chance to reflect on the birth, recover physically and settle into being a parent to a new born for the first time or, again. Now is the ideal time to get your physical, social, and emotional wellbeing looked over to identify anything that you might need further support with. For example, if you had diabetes, or high blood pressure during pregnancy you may need a referral to further specialised professionals or ongoing medical management
Unfortunately, as I write this covid restrictions have been in place for many months with no sign of them easing. In-fact they may be getting tighter again. GPs appear to be doing these checks over the phone or not at all and this is, in our opinion, not acceptable!
Having a baby is a life changing event, for many reasons, not just because of the physical effects it has on your body but also the emotional ones and the change in family dynamics.
So to help you highlight any issues we have created a check list of things you should be thinking about around 6-8 weeks after you have had your baby and if you have any concerns with any of areas of your physical, social or emotional wellbeing you need to bring these up with your GP, Health visitor, or other professional. If you feel you cannot do that then tell a friend or your partner. DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE.
Persistent tiredness Being tired is part of the job when you are a new parent. You literally hit the floor running trying to recover from the birth and on top of that trying to keep up with a new bubba with no manual! However, if you are finding yourself becoming tired or breathless from just walking up and down some stairs or a short walk outside then that could be a sign of anaemia (low haemoglobin in the blood). Other symptoms could include dizziness, pale, palpitations, or generalised weakness.
Difficulty or inability to pass stools Constipation is common, lets face it new mums worry about making sure their children are sorted before themselves. It can be easily solved with an increase in fibre to your diet, increase your fluid intake (water) or you may need a stool softener to help you go. In severe cases you may need a suppository to help start the process. Haemorrhoids are common after childbirth; constipation can make them worse.
Leaking urine or urgency to go Just because you have had a baby does NOT make it ‘normal’ to leak urine or have a sudden urgency to go and then leak if you don’t make it on time! You may find you only leak when you laugh, cough or sneeze. All these generally require a more concerted effort to do your pelvic floor exercises regularly and more often, ideally with guidance from a women’s physio. Also take note if you feel like you cannot pass urine, or your bladder is not emptying fully.
Passing stools when you do not mean to This needs referral to a specialist. If you have sustained a third or fourth degree tear you should be followed up at the hospital with a consultant around this time.
Wound This refers to both abdominal (from a Caesarean section) and perineal wounds. By 6-8 weeks your wound should have healed, but if you notice any swelling, lumps, bumps or areas that do not feel right then these should be checked.
Backache Epidurals in themselves do not cause backache. The positions you get into during labour and birth with or without an epidural can cause pain after wards, along with the positions you end up adopting while feeding your baby so take care of your back.
Painful, stinging, unpleasant smelling vagina Lots of women are embarrassed by talking about their vagina. But it is so important that you check the health of it after childbirth to make sure you do not have an infection. Signs include unpleasant smelling, discoloured discharge, stinging, or pain. These should all be checked out by your GP.
Breasts care No matter if you are still breast feeding at 6-8 weeks or not you should be aware of your breast health. Are they painful, do they feel engorged? Do you have cracked, bleeding or inverted nipples? Take note of any red, hot, painful areas as this can be a sign of mastitis (yes this can happen at any time while breastfeeding).
Painful sexual intercourse It is your choice as to when you start having sex with your partner again and having a new baby can influence the libido. Painful sex is something to mention to the GP as it needs checking to make sure you have recovered and healed as expected. However sometimes hormones, especially when breastfeeding, can cause less lubrication in the vagina which can cause pain. We recommend a natural intimate lubricant to help with this issue.
Cervical health If you are due a cervical smear test then this should be arranged around this time.
Emotional Wellbeing If you find that you have been feeling low in mood, suffering from anxiety, restlessness, tearfulness, fatigue, loss of appetite, insomnia, irritability or just don’t feel yourself or how you expected to after having a baby, tell someone! A chat might be all that is needed.
Social Support If you are feeling isolated because you do not have support around you because your family live too far away or you haven’t managed to make any other new parent friends then speak to your GP or health visitor about local support groups or speak to your local children’s centre for local parent groups and support virtually or face to face
Around 6 – 8 weeks is a good time to sort out your long-term contraception. Before this is sorted, we advise having some condoms in the house ‘just in case’. Whenever you resume sexual intercourse you will need to take precautions as you will not know when you are ovulating. There are lots of options and the best place to find out what they are is the family planning association.