Your Postpartum Doctor Visit - Should You Wait Six Weeks? (2023)

Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy and childbirth. So, after your baby is born, your body needs time to heal. As you recover, it’s important to make an appointment to see your OB-GYN for postpartum care. Here’s what you need to know about the postpartum visit, including when to see your doctor and what you can expect.

The Postpartum Period

The time of your life after you have a baby is called the postpartum or postnatal period. It is broken down into three phases.

  • Phase one is the initial recovery during the first six to twelve hours after giving birth.
  • The second stage lasts two to six weeks while your body is physically healing, and you are adjusting to life with your newborn.
  • The third part is the gradual return of your body to the way it was before your pregnancy. Of course, some things may not entirely go back to the way they were. This time of healing can take up to six months.


Watch Now: The Three Stages of Postpartum Depression

When to See the Doctor

In the past, a postpartum check-up was a one-time visit scheduled between four and six weeks after delivery. However, thoughts on postnatal care have changed in recent years. Health experts now consider postpartum care an ongoing process based on each individual’s needs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines published in 2013 recommend at least four postnatal interactions after delivery: in the first 24 hours, on the third day, between 7-14 days, and at six weeks.

In 2018, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) updated its guidelines to reflect an ongoing process. 

After the initial care at birth, the first postpartum contact or visit should be within three weeks. You should stay in contact with your healthcare provider during the first three months, and a complete and thorough postpartum exam should occur no later than twelve weeks.

Why You Need to Go

After you have a baby, you experience physical and emotional changes. A visit with your doctor during this time can help prevent complications. If something isn't right, the doctor can catch it and treat it early before it becomes a problem.

This appointment is also time set aside to talk to your doctor about sensitive issues and get answers to questions you may have about bleeding, your sex drive, birth control, the baby blues, postpartum depression, and more.

All pregnant women should receive postpartum care even if the pregnancy ends with a devastating loss. Physical and emotional care and support are even more critical during a very difficult time.

What to Expect

You should see your doctor or talk to your doctor on the phone within three weeks of giving birth. If you have a c-section, complications, or other health issues such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure, you may see your doctor sooner and keep in touch with the doctor more often as you heal.

At your first contact, you will spend some time talking to your doctor. The doctor may also check your blood pressure or follow up with any other concerns. As your care continues, the health care team can keep in touch with you in a variety of ways. You may go to the office, see a health care provider at home, or talk to the doctor on the phone or by text message.

As postpartum care nears its end, you should have a thorough health and wellness examination before you transition to well-care. Your comprehensive exam can take place as early as four weeks after birth, but no later than 12 weeks, depending on your situation. This visit is a complete check-up of your physical, social, and psychological health.

During this appointment, you will have a full physical exam. The doctor may:

  • Check your weight
  • Take your blood pressure
  • Check your perineum to see how you’re healing
  • Check an episiotomy, tear, or c-section wound if you have one
  • Check to see if your uterus is shrinking as expected
  • Check your breasts and talk about breastfeeding
  • Discuss any health issues you have
  • Talk to you about the postpartum blues and depression
  • Answer questions about your labor and delivery if you have them

You may also have your general gynecological screening if you are due for it. It may include a Pap smear, bloodwork to check for anemia or high blood sugar, and a urine test if you have urinary problems or symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

The doctor will also talk to you about:

  • How your body is recovering from childbirth
  • Your emotions and how you feel about motherhood
  • Your mood
  • Any anxiety or depression that you may be feeling
  • Your social support system
  • How you are sleeping
  • Nutrition and your eating habits
  • How caring for your baby is going
  • How bottle-feeding or breastfeeding is going
  • If you are considering having more children
  • Any concerns about sex
  • Birth control
  • Managing any health concerns such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions
  • Following up with other health practitioners for any issues you may have
  • Continuing to tend to your health through routine care

What to Expect at Your Postpartum Checkup

Bring Your Questions

You are bound to have questions, especially if you just had your first baby. But, since pregnancy and birth can be very different with each child, experienced moms can have questions, too.

As questions come up, write them down so you can bring them to your appointment. If you don't write them down, you may not remember everything you want to ask once you're sitting in the office. And remember, there are no silly questions. You shouldn't feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about asking your doctor anything. That's one of the reasons they're there, and they want to help. Some of the things you may want to ask about are:

  • Your delivery
  • The healing process
  • Preventing problems now and in the future
  • Birth control
  • Sex
  • Tampons
  • Exercise
  • Breastfeeding
  • Breast issues such as pain or lumps
  • Caring for your newborn
  • Returning to work

Symptoms to Bring Up

Those pesky pregnancy symptoms may finally be gone, but the postpartum period has its own set of discomforts. Most of the time, postpartum symptoms are common and expected. However, sometimes they can be a sign of a complication. So, you should discuss all your symptoms with your doctor. The doctor can reassure you of what's normal and help you find relief, but also look into any concerning symptoms. You should talk to your doctor about:

  • The amount and color of any bleeding you are experiencing
  • Headaches
  • Pain
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Constipation
  • Leaking urine
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • How you're feeling
  • If you are sad or under a lot of stress

How to Talk About Postpartum Depression

When to Call the Doctor

You do not have to wait for your scheduled postpartum appointment to talk to or see the doctor if you have urgent concerns. You should call the doctor or go to the hospital if you have:

  • A fever over 100.4 F
  • Bleeding that is getting heavier
  • Severe pain
  • Swelling in your body, especially your hands or face
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A headache that is not going away or getting worse
  • Foul-smelling vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Difficulty caring for yourself and your baby
  • Feelings of depression
  • Painful, burning urination or urinary frequency

Skipping It

Not all women get postpartum care. Up to 40% of women do not follow up with a doctor after giving birth. There are many reasons for this, such as:

  • Not knowing about it
  • Not knowing who to call
  • Being too busy
  • Having too many other things to do
  • Thinking it isn't necessary
  • Feeling good
  • Not having anyone to watch the baby
  • Having been through it before many times
  • Concerns about the cost
  • The insurance will not cover it

While there are things that make can make it difficult or inconvenient to get there, you should make every effort to see the doctor. If you have to bring your baby with you, you can. If you’re concerned about the cost or your insurance, talk to the hospital staff or your health care provider for helpful resources.

Skipping out on postpartum care can have some unintended consequences.

  • You may not realize you have an infection or a postpartum complication.
  • You may not heal well.
  • You could get pregnant again quickly.
  • You could have undiagnosed postpartum depression.

A Word From Verywell

During pregnancy, prenatal visits are plentiful. But, the attention to an expecting mom's health and wellness seems to fade once the baby is born. Care during the postpartum period can be overlooked at a time when many women need it most.

The body changes so much during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. It is incredible what the body goes through in less than one year. And, it's true that some women feel wonderful after childbirth. But, for others, the physical and emotional challenges of the fourth trimester can be a struggle.

The continuation of care after pregnancy is so important. Just as you need ongoing care during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, you need it while you're healing in the days, weeks, and months after your baby is born. Postpartum care should be part of your overall pregnancy care. You and doctor should work together to make sure your health is monitored and managed throughout the entire process. So, talk about it with your doctor while you're pregnant, be sure to make your appointments, and don't skip out on them even if you're feeling good.

Your Body After Having a Baby

9 Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Romano M, Cacciatore A, Giordano R, La Rosa B. Postpartum period: three distinct but continuous phases. Journal of prenatal medicine. 2010 Apr;4(2):22.

  2. World Health Organization. WHO recommendations on postnatal care of the mother and newborn. World Health Organization; 2014.

  3. Care OP. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 736 Optimizing Postpartum Care. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2018;131(5):e140-50.

  4. Fahey JO, Shenassa E. Understanding and meeting the needs of women in the postpartum period: the perinatal maternal health promotion model. Journal of midwifery & women's health. 2013 Nov;58(6):613-21. doi:10.1111/jmwh.12139

  5. Al-Safi Z, Imudia AN, Filetti LC, Hobson DT, Bahado-Singh RO, Awonuga AO. Delayed postpartum preeclampsia and eclampsia: demographics, clinical course, and complications. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2011 Nov 1;118(5):1102-7. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318231934c

  6. Jordan RG, Farley CL, Grace KT. Prenatal and postnatal care: a woman-centered approach. John Wiley & Sons; 2018 Apr 23.

  7. DiBari JN, Yu SM, Chao SM, Lu MC. Use of postpartum care: predictors and barriers. Journal of pregnancy. 2014;2014. doi:10.1155/2014/530769

  8. Nazik E, Eryilmaz G. The prevention and reduction of postpartum complications: Orem’s Model. Nursing science quarterly. 2013 Oct;26(4):360-4.

  9. Martin A, Horowitz C, Balbierz A, Howell EA. Views of women and clinicians on postpartum preparation and recovery. Maternal and child health journal. 2014 Apr 1;18(3):707-13. doi:10.1007/s10995-013-1297-7

Your Postpartum Doctor Visit - Should You Wait Six Weeks? (1)

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.

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Your Postpartum Doctor Visit - Should You Wait Six Weeks? ›

In the past, ACOG recommended that most women have a postpartum checkup 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. ACOG now says that postpartum care should be an ongoing process, rather than a one-time checkup. ACOG now recommends that all women: Have contact with their health care provider within 3 weeks of giving birth.

Why do doctors make you wait 6 weeks after birth? ›

Your doctor will be making sure that you are healing as expected. By 6 weeks postpartum, your uterus should also have returned to its normal size – about the size of a grapefruit. If you are due for a pelvic exam, or if you had a complicated delivery or episiotomy, you can expect a pelvic exam.

Is the 6 week postpartum rule real? ›

Many health care providers recommend waiting 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth to give your body time to heal before you have sex.

What happens if you don't wait 6 weeks after birth? ›

Your uterus contracts and you'll be good as new soon. But to be sure to allow time for that healing, medical providers recommend a waiting period. Inserting items into your vagina could potentially introduce bacteria, which could travel through your cervix and into your uterus, and cause infection. Yikes!

What happens at 6 weeks postpartum checkup? ›

Much of this exam is just like a regular physical: Your doctor checks your weight and blood pressure, and may even take your pulse or listen to your chest. They'll also run any necessary tests, such as blood work if they're worried about anemia. From there, the exam addresses more specific postpartum concerns.

Why do doctors wait until 8 weeks? ›

The main reasons for the 8-week ultrasound may be to confirm a pregnancy, determine a due date, and confirm the baby's heartbeat. First, your doctor or technician will look for key physical indicators, like a gestational sac and a fetal pole, to verify the pregnancy is in the uterus.

Can I get fingered 5 weeks postpartum? ›

According to Baby Centre, you need to wait because you're losing lochia as your uterus heals, and penetration before the bleeding halts could quickly lead to an infection. So, as a result, the general wait time before penetration, including fingering, is four to six weeks or when your doctor's given you approval.

What is the 5 5 5 rule after birth? ›

Prepare for the 5-5-5 rule: 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, 5 days near the bed. This gives you a solid two weeks of focused intentional rest. It also helps to get your priorities in order when it comes to those eager visitors. They will get to see the baby, but they don't get to make the rules.

What is the 40 day rule postpartum? ›

In Latin American cultures, the first 40 days after having a baby is traditionally known as la cuarentena, a time for new moms to rest, recover, and focus on breastfeeding while the women in their communities provide housekeeping and other support.

How long does it take for your cervix to close after birth? ›

The cervix generally doesn't close fully for around six weeks, so up until that point, there's the risk of introducing bacteria into the uterus and ending up with an infection, Pari Ghodsi, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn based in Los Angeles, tells SELF.

How fertile are you after giving birth? ›

You can get pregnant as little as 3 weeks after the birth of a baby, even if you're breastfeeding and your periods haven't started again. Unless you want to get pregnant again, it's important to use some kind of contraception every time you have sex after giving birth, including the first time.

Why wait 6 weeks to take baby out? ›

It pays to be extra careful for the first month — the younger your baby, the less time her immune system has had to strengthen. (This is especially important for infants born prematurely or with other health concerns.)

How much weight do you lose after 6 weeks postpartum? ›

Most women lose half of their baby weight by 6 weeks after childbirth (postpartum). The rest most often comes off over the next several months. A healthy diet with daily exercise will help you shed the pounds. Breastfeeding can also help with postpartum weight loss.

What should I ask at my 6 week postpartum appointment? ›

10 questions to ask your OB-GYN at the 6 week postpartum visit
  • Were there any issues with my delivery I should know about? ...
  • Is my bleeding normal? ...
  • What can I do for postpartum pain? ...
  • When can I start exercising again? ...
  • Is it OK for me to start having sex again? ...
  • How important is breastfeeding?
Jan 16, 2017

Why would a social worker visit after birth? ›

If you have a serious mental health problem, social services may call in to check that you are OK and have the support you need.

Why do hospitals keep you so long after birth? ›

Your hospital stay after childbirth may be longer if you have any complications during labor, such as a postpartum hemorrhage, blood clots, or an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Each length of stay is different, but your healthcare provider and hospital staff will be monitoring you and your baby throughout.

What can you do before 6 weeks postpartum? ›

The first six weeks postpartum are emotionally and physically challenging, which means healing and rest are at the top in the priority list. However, practicing gentle mobility exercises (if you so wish to) prior to the 6 week mark can help with recovery and re-establish good breathing mechanics and muscle activation.


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