New mothers at a meeting
By Elizabeth Garchar, MD

New Mexico Moms Need Postpartum Care: Here’s What to Expect

Every pregnancy and delivery is different, and all patients can benefit from postpartum care.

After you give birth, life revolves around your new little one. But between feedings, changing diapers, rocking and enjoying that sweet baby smell, it’s also very important to take care of yourself.

Your body just grew and delivered another human being. That’s hard work! No matter how easy your pregnancy or delivery were, your body needs time to recover. Going to postpartum checkups can help you heal and stay healthy after your baby is born.

Postpartum checkups are visits with your doctor or midwife in the weeks after your baby is born. These visits focus on your health and well-being. It’s also a time to look for post-delivery complications, such as bleeding, infection or depression.

In fact, postpartum care can save your life. Maternal mortality rates in the U.S. have been on the rise. In New Mexico, the 2018 maternal mortality rate was 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, with women of color more likely to be at risk. Many deaths can be prevented with appropriate postpartum care.

Taking care of yourself is important. When you are strong and healthy, you will feel better and you can take better care of your family. Here’s what you can expect with postpartum care at UNM Hospital.

3 Visits You Shouldn’t Miss

It used to be that women got one quick check-up after giving birth. The goal was approval to go back to their normal activities. That has changed—we know that spending a little more time can save lives.

Postpartum care usually involves three important visits, at about two weeks, six weeks, and 12 weeks after your baby is born. Depending on your needs, your provider might want to see you a little more or a little less.  At UNM we often only have a two and six week postpartum check but if you have questions or concerns we can see you more of course.

Some postpartum visits can be done by phone or video chat. You will however need to come to the hospital for physical exams. After the six-week visit, we help you find a primary care provider in your community if you live far from the hospital.

Traveling with a baby can be tough. It takes a little work to find someone to watch older kids while you go to your postpartum appointments.  I have a 3-month-old a 3-year-old, so I understand the frustration and struggle personally.  Your health is worth the effort.

Worried About Getting to Your Appointment?

Call our Patient Advocate Coordinator at 505-272-2121. We can help you find resources to travel to the hospital.

Emergency Symptoms

You know your body best. Call 9-1-1 or call Labor and Delivery Triage at 505-272-2460 right away if you have any of these emergency symptoms:

  • Fever above 100.4 F
  • Vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than two weeks or is more than 2 overnight pads soaked back to front in one hour or gets suddenly much heavier.
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision
  • Pain or swelling in your legs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe pain in your lower abdomen
  • Redness, discharge, or pain in your pelvis or belly
  • Severe depression

What to Expect at Postpartum Visits

Your body has been through a lot over the past year. We want to make sure you are healing properly.

During your physical exam, we’ll check your:

  • Blood pressure, heart rate and weight
  • Incisions from a C-section
  • Any tear if we are concerned, we don’t always do a pelvic exam.
  • Breasts, for blocked milk ducts, which can get infected if you have concerns about them.

We’ll also discuss any problems you had during pregnancy. Problems like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (high blood pressure) often need ongoing care after childbirth.

Here are a few more things we’ll discuss at your postpartum visits.

Caring for your emotional wellbeing is just as important as your physical health. It’s normal to feel a little sad or overwhelmed after having a baby. This is known as the baby blues and can last a few weeks.

But 10-20% of patients get postpartum depressions. This condition causes intense symptoms that make it hard to care for yourself and your baby. Symptoms can include:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Anger or irritability
  • Sadness and feeling like crying a lot
  • Little to no energy
  • Sense of hopelessness or panic
  • Trouble focusing or remembering things
  • Little interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Very rarely feelings of wanting to harm yourself or your baby.

Postpartum depression is treatable with medication and therapy. It is important to get help right away if you or someone else notices these symptoms in you. 

It’s OK to get help. Talk with your doctor or midwife about resources such as home visitation programs to help you and your baby have a healthy start.

If you choose to breastfeed, our board-certified lactation consultants will support you. At your postpartum visit, we can show you how to position your baby, get a good latch and use a breast pump.  We also can discuss ways to increase milk supply safely.

Related reading: Answers to 5 common questions about breastfeeding

Despite what many people think, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding. The soonest reported pregnancy after a birth is 19 days, crazy so if you are having sex you can get pregnant.  Most women begin ovulating (releasing eggs from their ovaries) about six weeks after giving birth. We can talk about the birth control options that best fit your family planning goals.

Questions to Ask at Your Visits

Postpartum visits are a time for you to ask your doctor or midwife any questions you may have about your recovery or adjusting to life with a new baby. Some things you might want to discuss include:

  • How many calories should I eat while breastfeeding?
  • When can I begin exercising?
  • How long do I need to wait before having sex again?
  • Should I improve my health for a future pregnancy?
  • Why am I not losing weight?

There is no question too silly—we will never judge you, and we will give you honest answers.

Remember: The postpartum period is for healing your body. The best thing you can do is rest, eat a healthy diet and attend your postpartum appointments.   It is important after you have had some time to heal to go back to light exercise as well but please come make sure that is safe first.

To find out whether you or a loved one might benefit from Ob/Gyn care
Categories: Women's Health