What is the 6-week postnatal check?
Generally, women are advised to have a postnatal check 6 weeks after having their baby. This is normally with either their maternity care provider or doctor. Sometimes there are benefits to being checked earlier than 6 weeks.
The 6-week postpartum check is a comprehensive check to assess how your body has recovered after your pregnancy and baby's birth. By 6 weeks after birth, most women have recovered from labour and childbirth.
It is also an opportunity to review your general health and wellbeing. Your physical and emotional health are equally as important.
Why do I need to have a check at 6 weeks?
The postpartum check is a good opportunity to talk about your baby's birth, especially if this did not progress as you would have liked it to. Understanding why interventions took place and if they are likely to happen again, can help to heal birth trauma and disappointment. If your labour and baby's birth were different to how you had planned, you may have also been offered an opportunity to 'debrief' shortly after their birth.
For many women, the 6-week postnatal check is the first time they've had an opportunity to talk about how they have recovered after their baby's birth and how they are adjusting to caring for a new baby. The first few months of life can be particularly challenging and the reality of caring for a baby can be very different from what you might expect.
Who will I have the check with?
This will depend on who supported you through your pregnancy. Most maternity care providers recommend the postnatal check is done with them. If this isn't possible, it may be more convenient to see your GP.
- If you had your baby in a public maternity hospital, it is likely you'll be advised to see your GP.
- If you were supported by a private obstetrician or midwife during your pregnancy, they will do your check.
What physical checks will be done?
Before you have a physical check, your healthcare provider will ask you a series of questions relating to how you are feeling.
- Your GP or maternity care provider will check your blood pressure and weight and may listen to your heart and chest.
- If you're breastfeeding, you may have your breasts and nipples checked.
- Your tummy will be felt to check your uterus has returned to its pre-pregnancy position in your pelvis.
- You may have a vaginal examination, and if you’re due, you may have a cervical screening.
- You will also be checked for any signs of bladder or bowel prolapse.
- If your baby is also seen, they will be examined and weighed and their head circumference and length will be checked. It will help to take your baby's Personal Health Record book along with you to the appointment. You'll also have the opportunity to talk about any concerns you may have with your baby.
You will be asked if you are:
- feeling well and healthy
- how your baby is going and if you have any concerns about them — you're likely to be asked about your baby's feeding and sleep too
- how you're managing caring for yourself and your baby
- if you have any concerns about yourself or your baby
- if you're experiencing any pain or discomfort — this can be more common after a caesarean or instrumental (forceps or vacuum extraction) birth
- if you're having any problems weeing or pooing — constipation is a common issue in the first few weeks after childbirth and the postnatal check is an opportunity to discuss solutions
- recovering from stitches if you had a tear or episiotomy — your healthcare provider will also check your perinium, and by 6 weeks after birth, the tear or episiotomy should be healed and not painful
- still bleeding and if so, how much
- back to having sex again — most women are advised to wait until they are fully healed and feel comfortable before resuming sex
What tests and investigations might I have?
You may be advised to have a blood test to check your iron count. This is recommended for women who have lost more than the average amount of blood during birth and afterwards.
You may also have blood tests to check your thyroid function. It's not uncommon for women who've had a baby to develop hypothyroidism — an underactive thyroid.
Will my baby also have a health check?
Depending on the length of your appointment, your baby may also be checked. It can help to book a longer appointment so you can both be checked. Many GP clinics book 'back-to-back' appointments so the baby can also be checked and have their first vaccination as well if they’re 6 weeks of age.
What else will be discussed at my 6-week check?
You will have the opportunity to discuss any concerns you are having about yourself and your baby. it can help to write a list as a reminder of what you want to discuss.
It’s likely your GP will ask if you have thought about having sex again and discuss contraceptive options.
What resources and support are available?
After having a baby, it can be helpful to know where to go for extra support and help. Here is a list of support services.
- Your local health service, particularly Child Health Services.
- The Continence Foundation of Australia has a list of continence resources. Some women have problems with incontinence in the early weeks and months of having their baby.
- PANDA is a service which supplies support for parents experiencing issues with mental health and wellbeing. One in five new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads will experience postnatal depression and anxiety.
- The Australasian Birth Trauma Association assists women who need support with emotionally healing after a traumatic birth.
- ForWhen is a mental health support service for expecting and new parents.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: November 2022