Getting checkups shortly after childbirth is called postpartum (or postnatal) care. At postpartum appointments, your doctor will check to see how you’re healing from the birth.
Many people have their first postpartum appointment within the first 3 weeks after giving birth. During early postpartum appointments, your doctor will perform some screenings and exams, as well as discuss your birth control needs and returning to sexual activity. Your doctor also will ask if you would like to become pregnant again in the future — and, if so, you’ll discuss the amount of time to take between pregnancies that would work best for you.
Postpartum care is important because people are at risk of serious and even life-threatening health complications in the days and weeks after giving birth, such as postpartum preeclampsia. In the United States, Black women are most at risk of having postpartum medical complications — and dying from them — because of long-term structural racism, discrimination, poverty, and barriers to postpartum care.
If you’re a Black woman, you may face racism from your nurses and doctors and from the health care system as a whole. You may find that you need to advocate for yourself more than white patients to get the same amount of care. Know that you’re not alone.
Remember: No matter what, YOU are your biggest advocate during postpartum care. It’s your body, and nobody but you knows how you feel. The postpartum period (up to 1 year after giving birth) is the time to speak up until you feel that your level of care is met.
Ways to advocate for postpartum care:
- Create a postpartum support network
- Consider hiring a postpartum doula, and see if your community offers free or low-cost postpartum doula support
- If you don’t feel heard or you’re not satisfied with your care for any reason, try to find another doctor.
- Ask lots of questions. Understanding what’s going on will help you advocate for yourself.
Notify your nurse or doctor if you have any of the following warning signs:
- Postpartum depression
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- An incision that’s not healing
- Fever higher than 100.4°F
- Pain or burning when you pee or poop
- Red streaks or painful lumps on your breasts
- Severe and persistent nausea, pain in your lower belly, or vomiting
- Vaginal discharge that smells bad
- A severe headache that doesn’t go away or that comes with changes in vision
Call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you have any of the following emergencies:
- Bleeding that can’t be controlled
- Coughing or gasping for air
- A seizure
- Painful, warm swelling and tenderness around your calves
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Signs of shock, such as chills, clammy skin, dizziness, fainting, or a racing heart
- Seeing spots
Planned Parenthood supports people in every step of their reproductive lives. Contact your nearest Planned Parenthood health center and ask if they offer postpartum care.