A newborn baby sleeps while holding onto a hand.
The postpartum period can be a special bonding time for mom and baby, but new guidelines recommend moms make time for a series of follow-up visits. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Pregnancy is such an exciting time, although not easy for all.

Along with the anticipation of meeting your new baby and the wonderful thought of holding your little one in your arms, there are sometimes bouts of morning sickness and other aches and pains.

Whether you’re a brand-new mom or a mom for the second or third time, you’ll have your ups and downs. And you’ll wonder about all kinds of curious things.

After we had our first two children—a boy, then a girl—I wondered how I would be able to love another baby without loving the other children a little less.

But that’s one of the amazing miracles of birth. My heart had room to love them all, plus fully love our newest bundle!

The love doesn’t decrease. It just seems to multiply. It’s infinite.

At the delivery itself, there are plenty of other variables to ponder.

Hospital stays are typically short these days, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Women today return home within 24 hours to 48 hours after a vaginal birth. When I first started in obstetrics many moons ago, moms who delivered vaginally would stay three days and moms who had C-sections would stay five days.

While things have certainly changed, it’s no less overwhelming.

Delivery now involves all the expected bustle in the delivery room—labor, delivery, processing everything—as well as nurses covering baby care, discharge instructions and things to watch for.

There is much happening after birth. As moms begin to heal from the experience, their hormonal changes can quickly affect how they feel. Lack of sleep and baby feedings can be exhausting, and it’s often a challenge to adjust each time the family grows.

The underlying point here: All of this happens in the postpartum period.

Having help in the postpartum period is incredibly important, but unfortunately, we are in an age in which many new parents don’t live near their family.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently issued a statement on new guidelines for postpartum care.

Here are some of the key points:

  • The fourth trimester—the 12 weeks following birth—is critically important. Among developed countries, the U.S. has the highest mortality rate for women. We need to make mothers aware of these issues and help guide them through the period after birth.
  • The organization recommends that new moms see their delivering provider within the first three weeks after delivery. The previous recommendations had called for a visit within six weeks, so this advances the timetable quite a bit.
  • The organization also recommends scheduling a series of visits after delivery, rather than just one visit. This can help the new mom navigate motherhood much more effectively, with much better support.
  • The series of visits should be followed up by a comprehensive visit at 12 weeks, which would allow the OB-GYN to address these areas:
    • Mood and emotional well-being
    • Infant care and feeding
    • Sexuality contraception and birth spacing
    • Sleep and fatigue
    • Physical recovery from birth
    • Chronic disease management
    • Health maintenance

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that up to 40 percent of women don’t schedule a postpartum visit. These new moms can miss out on some critical things, as you can see.

The postpartum visits allow the OB-GYN to gauge the new mom’s current health, as well as measuring risks for any longer-term issues such as diabetes, blood pressure or obesity.

By scheduling a series of visits, moms may find it more helpful to attend these appointments. It encourages providers to discuss other important topics, too, such as spacing pregnancies out, reproductive plans and general health issues.