‘Your scar is healing well but you have a 2 finger width gap in your tummy Emma, best thing for that is some sit ups!!!!’ Yup, that was it, my 6 week postnatal GP check up. A quick feel of my tummy, told I had a gap in my abdominals and to add insult to injury, the wrong advice to correct it. Professionally I felt so disappointed that this was the service that my GP advised. Personally, I felt like the GP wasn’t that interested in my recovery at all. Pregnancy and childbirth place such incredible stresses on a woman’s body. Changes and symptoms occur that nature alone will not resolve. we all need some guidance to help get our bodies back and treat any symptoms that may have occurred as a result.
A recent survey carried out by ‘Mother and Baby’ found that over half of all women found their 6 week postnatal check to be inadequate. The sad fact is that a check up for mums does not have to be offered by GP surgeries and more often or not if you don’t ask you don’t get. With this in mind, insist on being seen. The NHS have a list of things that should be done during your check as you can see below. As you can see from my experience if time is of the essence then this list will be deviated from. My advice would be to ask for a longer appointment and take the list with you.
- you should be weighed and can get weight loss advice if you need it
- your urine should be tested to make sure your kidneys are working properly and that you haven’t got an infection
- your blood pressure will be checked
- you may be offered an examination to see if your stitches have healed (if you had any), and that all the muscles used during labour and delivery are returning to normal
- your doctor may discuss carrying out a cervical screening test (smear test) with you if you have not had one in the past three years – the test won’t usually take place until three months after delivery
- if you are not immune to rubella (German measles) and were not given an immunisation before you left hospital, you will be offered one now
- you will be asked if you still have any vaginal discharge and whether you have had a period since the birth
- Contraception will be discussed
The 6 week check is also an opportunity for you to mention any of the following should they be relevant to you:
- you are having trouble holding urine or wind, or you are soiling yourself
- if sex is painful
- you are feeling very tired, low or depressed
- you are worried about anything
From here it really is the GPs role to identify the problems and direct you to the correct health care professional. I would encourage you to get a physiotherapy referral if you are told that you have a gap between your stomach muscles (diastsis recti), problems holding urine, wind or faeces, if intercourse is painful or you are a keen exerciser and want some guidance on returning to exercise. We will discuss what physiotherapy can offer in the next post but in my opinion EVERY woman that has had a baby (regardless of delivery) should see a trained women’s health physiotherapist. This provides a ‘true’ postnatal check and is the key to recovery – a true MUMMY MOT!……..