Postnatal Checks and Postnatal Depression
One of the biggest life changes a woman will go through is carrying a baby and giving birth. While it’s possible to research what to expect; pregnancy and childbirth are unique experiences that nobody can fully prepare for until they’ve gone through it firsthand. But the hard part doesn’t end once the baby arrives, in fact, quite the opposite.
The physical and emotional results of carrying a baby and giving birth are like no other, plus there is a new-found responsibility that no amount of training can prepare you for. Postnatal care is a significant part of the pregnancy along with the delivery itself, and it’s important that you seek support from your GP and other professionals who have experience in this area.
Physical Postnatal Check
Postnatal is generally considered anything up to six weeks from the delivery date and your six-week postnatal check shouldn’t be missed.
This is where your GP will do a thorough check of your whole body and make sure that you’re healing and recovering as well as they’d expect you to.
As this is a new experience to you (even if it’s not your first child, no two deliveries are the same), it’s important that you tell your GP of any concerns that you might have. You might be sleep deprived and still trying to sort out a routine around your newborn so make a list in the few days leading up to the appointment so you don’t forget anything.
Your GP may check any or all of the following during your post-natal check:
Tears have healed
If you had stitches or a caesarean, your GP will make sure these are healing well.
Cervical Screening / Pap Smear
If your pap smear is due, your GP will ask if you want to do this now or make an appointment to come back. It’s important that if this is recommended that you take note due to the changes that occur in your body during pregnancy and labour.
Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, there will be changes in your breast size and shape due to the increase in hormones during the child bearing process, so it’s important that you make a note of anything you’re not sure about. Breasts do become lumpy when they go through these changes but your GP will rule out any more serious causes of the lumps. They’ll also check for any infection or cracks in the nipples if you’re feeding.
You might have a pelvic examination to check that your uterus is shrinking back to it’s pre-pregnancy size.
Being the mother of a newborn puts pressure on every area of your life. Your body is going through physical changes, emotionally you’re adapting to being a mother (or a mother of multiple children), and the chances are you’re sleep deprived. Your doctor will review your overall wellbeing and it’s important to be honest with how well you’re coping with the changes as your GP will advise some strategies if you need extra support.
Your Mental Health
Postnatal depression is common in the first 12 months of giving birth and your doctor will evaluate your mental health to offer a support system if you need it. It’s really important that you’re honest with your GP about your thoughts and feelings during this time so they can give you the support you need to navigate what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging times in a woman’s life.
If your six-week postnatal check is due it’s important that you attend the appointment and give your GP as much information as you can. It’s this information that will allow them to offer you extra help and support if you need it.