By the time your postnatal check comes around, you may well feel like you have known your baby forever. But your body might still be settling down after the miraculous job it did bringing your bundle of joy into the world – so the six-week check is a chance to see how you are now faring. It will also include an examination of your baby.
Although it's commonly known as the six-week check, this examination will take place some time between six and eight weeks after giving birth. Most women go to their GP for it (and do ask if you'd prefer to see a female doctor), but some might be examined by a midwife in the hospital maternity unit.
Physically, you might have been experiencing various strange goings on since giving birth – and the chances are they're all perfectly normal. But this is your opportunity to ask any questions you have, so do make a list of things to discuss if you have any particular concerns regarding either yourself or your newborn.
What will the doctor check me for?
You may be asked to provide a urine sample when you arrive for your appointment, and the receptionist should give you a container so you can pop to the loo. Your urine will be checked to see that your kidneys are working properly.
If you had stitches following giving birth, your doctor will look at these to see how everything is healing up. They'll also have a feel of your tummy, to see how well your uterus has contracted back to its normal size (you can get pangs of pain, a bit like period pains, when this is actually happening – commonly, women feel it when they are breastfeeding).
If you had a caesarean section, the doctor will look at how well your scar is healing, and do mention if you have had continuing pain, or if the wound is weeping anywhere.
You'll be weighed and have your blood pressure checked. It's unlikely that the doctor will examine your breasts – however, if you have been having any soreness, or trouble with breastfeeding, now is the time to mention it.
The doctor will ask you about vaginal discharge you have experienced since giving birth. Discharge can be quite heavy to start with, but it will hopefully be settling down by now. They'll also ask you if you have yet had a period, and may talk to you now about contraception. If you haven't yet had sex since having your baby, and have any questions, don't be afraid to ask.
If you are due for a cervical smear (they are usually offered every three years) then your doctor will tell you to book yourself in for one in a few weeks' time – they're usually not done until three months after you have had your baby.
If your antenatal tests revealed that you were not immune to rubella, then your doctor might give you your jab now, to keep you (and any future pregnancies) safe.
Most doctors fully understand all the complexities and life changes that come with having a baby. If you have been feeling low, or incredibly tired, then tell your GP – there might be various ways they can help you. You might also want some advice about when you can start safely exercising again.
What will the doctor check my baby for?
You will have been given your baby's Red Book by now, which your midwife will have been recording your baby's weight and other medical notes in. Take your book along to the appointment.
Your little one will have been thoroughly examined, probably by a midwife, at their newborn health check. Still, your doctor might want to have another listen to your baby's heart and lungs, or have a look at their skin.
The doctor might see how well your baby is focusing by encouraging them to follow an object with their eyes. They'll also check in your Red Book to see if your baby has required any follow up tests – for example, if the results for the hearing screening were unsatisfactory.
If your baby had signs of clicky hips, your doctor will check this again for you. If anything appears to need further investigation at this point, you will be referred to a specialist.
Your doctor will pay attention to see if your baby is yet smiling, gurgling and cooing. Of course, newborns do not always perform! So if the GP can't see these things for themselves, they'll ask you about them.
Your baby will be due to start their immunisations soon (the first should be at around eight weeks), so your doctor will remind you to make that appointment.
There might be all manner of things slightly worrying you regarding your new baby – use this time to allay any fears you have, whether it's that you suspect they have eczema, or they're covered in baby acne, or they seem to spit up a lot, or you're afraid they might be developing colic.
Whatever it is, your doctor is bound to have some advice, so don't be afraid to ask.
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