What You May NOT (but Should) Hear at Your 6-Week Checkup
Ahhh, the famous 6-week checkup.
If you're pregnant or postpartum (in the US), chances are you're familiar with this appointment. It is after all, the day in one's postpartum life when the doctor gives the green light to start moving your body and clears you to resume sexual activity.
My first experience postpartum was like most healthy pregnancies with no delivery complications. I was told that everything looked good and that I could resume my normal activities.
So, I went home and the next morning went for a three-mile run. I was a pretty seasoned runner and that would surely make me get back to my pre-baby body so why not?
That was the first time I experienced incontinence. I didn't know what to think or how to feel. All I had ever been surrounded by were women laughing or making light of sneeze-peeing and having to cross their legs when they laughed. But, when it happened to me, it was no laughing matter. I wasn't going to just suck it up and make quippy jokes. And, for fucks sake, I surely wasn't going to pee my pants every time I wanted to go for a run.
Flash forward a couple years, a little maternal seasoning, and a bit of continuing education and there I was: a second baby and a second 6-week checkup.
And, as I expected, the 2nd visit was just as underwhelming as the first. I expected so much more... because I know so much more. Yet my visit went exactly as I believe most women's do. Short, sweet, with not much dialogue about self-care, pelvic floor health, or proper return to exercise.
That is, until I started asking questions. I'm lucky though- I have chosen to work with prenatal and postpartum clientele and have learned so much since my very first 6-week checkup.
However, most many women aren't as fortunate and most are released without a blink of an eye to resume their life just as it was 46(+/-) weeks prior. Not many know what to ask or that there is even more to ask.
Pregnancy and birth are so big; emotionally, physically, and physiologically.
We owe it to moms to do better.
There should be more than a single check-up, with a 10-question questionnaire assessing one's global distress score. We should be asked about more than just our plans for birth control.
At 6 weeks most women are still in the haze of midnight feeds and sleep deprivation that assessing their own mental state is somewhat unreliable and unrealistic.
The goal should be helping women to thrive postpartum instead of making them feel like it's time to get back to normal.
So until that happens, I'll take this opportunity to educate moms in my life, so they know what to ask for and what to listen for.
There's this thing called Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy (PFPT)
There is such a thing as physical therapy for the pelvic region. Yes, this therapy for any issues you may be having with the organs and supporting tissues within the pelvis. There is so much more that can occur "down there" than just ripping. Ask for a referral to a PFPT who can do an internal assessment. This will give you a better grasp on your healing and anything to watch for.
There's help for diastasis, prolapse, pelvic pain, & painful sex... and more!
Most women don't leave pregnancy unscathed; it's normal to walk away with diastasis, pelvic pain, prolapse, incontinence, painful sex, c-section incision pain, and more.
This time around I was diagnosed with prolapse, but I had to ask if it was there, and to what degree. Fortunately I also have access to a PT but many women need to know what to ask for and in return know that there is treatment and help available; these "conditions" are not life sentences.
After my first son was born, our pediatrician made sure to tell me to get out of the house every day; a walk, a quick errand, even a drive through Starbucks for a treat. I'm not advocating doctors should be telling postpartum mamas to book an appointment at the spa (even though if it's an option, go for it) but you may not hear that you NEED to be taking care of yourself as well as your babe. It's ok and imperative that you do things for you, as hard as it might seem.
Nutrition & proper return to exercise
Many doctors don't provide advice on what to eat for nursing and healing from birth. During this period a diet rich in protein, healthy fats and veggies can go a long way. While I'm not a nutritionist or dietician there are many blogs dedicated to this. One of my personal favorites can be found here.
In terms of movement; while there is so much you can do postpartum to help with pelvic issues, there are also ways to exacerbate issues such as diastasis recti and prolapse. Women should feel empowered to move. Most receive little to no advice or education on how to move properly so that optimal healing can occur. If you're not sure what moves are helpful postpartum, you can find a few of my favorites here.
Listen, the 6-week checkup isn't bad; I feel we need it but I also feel that we need SO MUCH MORE.
If you're looking for some help with your postpartum movement, I'm offering a free month of my online yoga community over at Vimeo! Just type in the code 'ohbaby' and you'll have access to a variety of classes tailored to prenatal and postpartum mamas!