Caring for a newborn is time-consuming, and some items on your to-do list may need to wait. But doctor’s visits shouldn’t be postponed.
Infants need regular checkups to ensure they stay healthy and hit developmental milestones. It’s also important to develop a good relationship with your provider.
Your newborn isn’t the only one who needs medical attention. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends new moms see a provider within 12 weeks. Yet up to 40% of women skip this important health screening.
WellTuned spoke with Drs. Edwin Thorpe and Sharon Moore-Caldwell, medical directors for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, to find out why these visits are important.
“New parents skip this checkup for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. Thorpe. “There are the demands of pregnancy, birth recovery, and newborn care. Social factors such as childcare, transportation, and employment can also interfere.”
But your provider can ensure you’re healing well. For some, this can be crucial to your overall health.
Black women are 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women in Tennessee.
“This is mainly tied to conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease that can develop during and after pregnancy. These contribute to a higher proportion of pregnancy-related deaths in Black women,” says Dr. Thorpe. “It can also be related to systemic factors like a lack of information on available care and programs.”
The good news is that this visit can count as your annual exam, so going now can save you time later in the year.
During your postpartum checkup, your doctor will:
- Check your incision. The doctor will examine any incisions you may have to ensure you’re healing and showing no signs of infection.
- Perform a pelvic exam to make sure your uterus, ovaries and cervix are recovering as expected. The doctor will also check your uterus for signs of infection. If you’re due for a pap smear, that can be performed at this time.
- Examine your breasts for blocked milk ducts. This condition can lead to an infection called mastitis. Since this visit may count as your annual exam, your doctor will also feel for lumps or masses.
- Assess your general health. The doctor will check your weight and blood pressure. You may also need to check your insulin levels if you had gestational diabetes.
- Discuss postpartum concerns, including breastfeeding, contraception and your mental health. You may undergo a screening for postpartum depression.
“Children do not come with instructions. It’s normal to have questions,” says Dr. Moore-Caldwell. “Well child visits are good opportunities for check-ins. They also allow for a comprehensive look at a child’s health.”
“Parents may skip these visits for many reasons. They may simply forget or have other barriers, such as limited access to transportation. Others may be unsure about what care is needed,” says Dr. Moore-Caldwell.
During this well-baby visit, the doctor will:
- Ensure your child is growing properly and eating enough.
- Observe your child’s actions and reactions.
- Make sure your child is hitting age-appropriate developmental milestones.
- Provide your child potentially life-saving immunizations when they’re needed.
They’ll also screen for conditions that may affect some children more than others. For example, Black children have a greater risk for illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and sickle cell anemia.
“Well-child visits are also a great time to build trust between the health care provider, the parent and the child,” says Dr. Moore-Caldwell. “This communication can lower the risk of developing a chronic condition. As children grow, these visits allow them to learn to ask questions which helps create the groundwork for healthy young adults.”
“All parents want healthy children who have every opportunity to grow into their potential. Well child visits create a space to work towards this common goal.”
Learn more about BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Healthy Maternity program available to members.
Learn more about BlueCare Tennessee’s maternity support, which includes assistance with breast pumps, transportation to doctor’s visits and newborn care.
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.