For each of my three babies, my doctors and midwives followed up with me for postnatal checkups six weeks after birth. During those six weeks at home, I didn’t hear boo from my medical experts charged with my care. They didn’t know that for one of those postnatal periods that I struggled with PPD. Nor did they know that for another one, I struggled with and ultimately failed at breastfeeding.
New guidelines introduced by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published in 2018, seek to change not only when a mum is seen postnatal for a follow-up check-up but also how often.
The ACOG now recommends that mums be seen three weeks instead of six for their first postnatal checkups. After that, the ACOG would like to see mums seen as often as they need and for that to be determined between the mum and her caregiver. After that, a fully comprehensive checkup should be done no later than 12 weeks postnatal.
And as for that comprehensive checkup, the ACOG has some detailed ideas on what that appointment should look like. According to their new guidelines, they recommend that new mums receive more quality care that includes, “a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being, including the following domains: mood and emotional well-being; infant care and feeding; sexuality, contraception, and birth spacing; sleep and fatigue; physical recovery from birth; chronic disease management; and health maintenance.”
Now that we know how pervasive and serious postnatal depression and other emotional and mental health related issues are for mothers in those precious first weeks and months of motherhood, we know to treat them with better and more comprehensive care. This is what makes the ACOG’s new guidelines are so critical to the health and well-being of new mums and babies.
It is important to note that these guidelines are committee opinion and not hard and fast rules, which matters because if they are enacted as standard practice then thousands of lives could be saved.
In 2017, NPR reported that around 4 million women in the United States give birth and of those women, 50,000 women – or 135 a day “endure dangerous and even life-threatening complications that often leave them wounded, weakened, traumatized, financially devastated, unable to bear more children, or searching in vain for answers about what went wrong.”
If expecting and postnatal mothers are treated with excellent medical care regardless of race, age, socioeconomic status, and other factors that so often derail good health and care, then the United States might actually see its place among the most dangerous places in the world for women to give birth decline.
For more information, check out the full American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) report here.