Newly released guidelines for postpartum care recommend you see your doctor sooner and more often after giving birth than previously advised.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued the sweeping new guidelines Monday amid growing recognition of how important it is for women to receive care during the so-called “fourth trimester,” the three months immediately following childbirth.
ACOG previously recommended getting a postpartum check-up within the first 6 weeks post-birth. Now, ACOG advises seeing your ob-gyn or other obstetric healthcare provider within 3 weeks following delivery. After that, you should continue to receive follow-up care as needed for three months, concluding with a comprehensive checkup no later than 12 weeks after birth, the recommendations state.
According to the guidelines, your follow-up care provider should assess your mood and emotional well-being, your physical recovery from childbirth, your sleep and fatigue levels, assist with managing any chronic disease problems, and provide guidance on how to care for and feed your baby.
“New mothers need ongoing care during the ‘fourth trimester.’ We want to replace the one-off checkup at six weeks with a period of sustained, holistic support for growing families,” said Alison Stuebe, lead author of the ACOG committee that developed the new guidelines. “Our goal is for every new family to have a comprehensive care plan and a care team that supports the mother’s strengths and addresses her multiple, intersecting needs following birth.”
Postpartum care can help you adjust to physical, social, and psychological changes that arise from being a new mom, and support you in caring for your baby.
It can also help catch and prevent health problems. During the days and weeks after labor, your risk of suffering potentially fatal pregnancy-related complications is higher than at any time during your actual pregnancy. Yet healthcare providers have often been slow to warn women of these risks, studies and media reports suggest. Women also frequently forgo postpartum checkups.
ACOG said it hopes the new guidelines will help improve postpartum care for all women, including those most at risk of falling through the cracks.