Dr. Stephanie Lam explains the postpartum visit, which is a new mother’s first visit with her OB/GYN after giving birth and takes place anywhere between 3-12 weeks after delivery. Dr. Lam explains what she looks for during this visit, why she does “a full exam, head to toe,” and what most patients could expect from the first several weeks postpartum.
“The Postpartum Visit” – with Dr. Stephanie Lam
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Dr. Stephanie Lam and Dr. Fox discuss the postpartum visit, or the first visit that a new mother has with her OB/GYN. On average, this appointment takes place six weeks after the delivery, but could be anywhere from 3-12 weeks after. Dr. Lam explains this depends on whether the patient had a high-risk pregnancy, complications during delivery, or other factors.
The Fourth Trimester
Dr. Lam and Dr. Fox say that the weeks following the delivery are often referred to as the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy. Dr. Lam describes her postpartum visits as a “debrief of the delivery” which offers closure for patients who may have concerns, such as an unexpected C-section. During this appointment, thy can discuss what decisions were made and why.
In addition, the patient and her doctor can discuss medical issues they might be experiencing, birth control, and other relevant concerns. Dr. Lam explains that checking in regarding postpartum depression and anxiety is common, because about 20% of patients deal with this issue. For this reason, she screens all patients for postpartum depression and anxiety, working to differentiate between normal difficulty, such as sleep deprivation, and more severe problems that require treatment.
A physical exam is also performed, including checking blood pressure, weight, and a breast exam. Dr. Lam says “I do a full exam from head to toe.” She will check the size of the uterus to ensure it is shrinking back to its normal size and check any tears to ensure they are healing properly.
Dr. Lam also discusses breastfeeding during this appointment. She connects patients with lactation consultants and breastfeeding classes, but also says that “women need to know that there’s actually this ‘club’ that exists; breastfeeding is hard!” Ultimately, she says “the most important thing is that the mom is happy and the baby is getting nutrition,” and reassures new moms that “failing is okay!”
Planning Ahead at the Postpartum Visit
Drs. Lam and Fox explain that they help their patients plan ahead for future health concerns during the postpartum visit as well. This includes discussing whether the patient would want to get pregnant again, and her birth control plan until then.
Dr. Fox says that “the things that happen during pregnancy are often like a stress test,” and that patients can in some cases predict whether they are at a higher risk for medical issues later in life based on their experiences during pregnancy. He explains that women who experienced issues like gestational diabetes or high blood pressure should “put it on your list” of things to discuss with primary care doctors in the future. The postpartum visit is also the opportunity for an OB/GYN to determine “how to make them more comfortable going forward” and determine plans for future pregnancies regarding testing and screening or seeing specialists.
Finally, Drs. Lam and Fox discuss when a postpartum patient can return to activities like exercise or sex. Dr. Lam tells her patients to “take it easy” until their six-week appointment, but notes that light exercise or activity is okay depending on how fit or active the woman is in everyday life. Dr. Fox adds that “whatever you’re doing, as long as it’s not hurting and you’re not injuring yourself” is fine.