Women should return at 3 weeks (not 6 weeks) for postpartum checkups!

Women should return at 3 weeks (NOT 6 weeks) for postpartum checkups!

 

Doctors Leon Speroff and Dan Mishell wrote the lead article in Contraception in August, 2008.  They suggest that “the 6-week postpartum visit is an anachronism.”  It simply does not make sense.  Many women resume sexual activity, they point out BEFORE 6 weeks and ovulation frequently occurs before 6 weeks. They suggest that “A 3-week visit would be more effective at preventing postpartum conception by initiating effective contraception at this time, instead of after the 6-week visit.”

This has been suggested for the past 2 decades by clinicians wanting to diagnose harmful bleeding due to a partially retained placenta.  Obviously it is desirable to detect this earlier than the 6-week visit. 

Speroff and Mishell point out that “total contraceptive protection is achieved by the exclusively breastfeeding woman for a duration of only 10 weeks”  [Visness, Kennedy, Gross et al 1997].  “Supplemental feeding increases the chance of ovulation (and pregnancy) even in amenorrheic women [Diaz S, Aravena R, Cardenas H. 1991 43-335-52]. Speroff and Mishell further point out that “Half of women who are not fully breastfeeding ovulate before the sixth week. Lactation, therefore, provides a contraceptive effect, but it is variable and not reliable for every woman.” 

RAH COMMENTWhen a physician, nurse midwife or nurse practitioner cares for a woman in the immediate postpartum period, neither the woman nor her clinician knows with certainty whether she will be exclusively breastfeeding for the entire 6 weeks suggesting that even for breastfeeding women the routine postpartum visit be scheduled for 3 weeks postpartum.

 

Handing an immediately postpartum woman her birth control pills in the hospital  and instructing her to take her first pill when her baby is 3 weeks old (if it is her plan to use combined pills), avoids some of the confusion and loss of effectiveness of delaying starting her pills until her 6-week postpartum visit.

Similarly, handing an immediately postpartum woman her progestin-only pills in the hospital  and instructing her to take her first pill on discharge from the hospital (if it is her plan to use POPs), avoids some of the confusion of delaying starting her pills until her 6-week postpartum visit.