There’s nothing parents-to-be want more than a healthy baby, and for mom to be healthy, too. The best chance for that to happen requires that we shift our thinking of pregnancy as the traditional three trimesters and acknowledge that it actually has four parts: three trimesters and a postpartum period. This postpartum period — the 12 weeks after your baby is born — is known as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. Here’s why fourth trimester maternity care is so vital.
According to an article published by our parent company, HCA Healthcare, about its partnership with March of Dimes, pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. have more than doubled over the past 25 years, and more women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country in the world. March of Dimes stresses that postpartum care is important because new moms are at risk of serious and sometimes life-threatening health complications during these 12 weeks.
While many of the discomforts and body changes you may experience in the weeks after giving birth are normal, others might be subtle warning signs or symptoms of a health problem that requires treatment. Checking in with your doctor sooner, and more often, can help you both recognize potential concerns and may help prevent serious medical or mental health issues, including postpartum depression.
Why is postpartum care important?
The fourth trimester is a critical time period for you and your infant, setting the stage for long-term health and well-being. Of the approximately 700 annual pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., the CDC says that most of these — almost two-thirds — are preventable. The keys to reducing or eliminating pregnancy-related deaths include:
- Recognizing urgent maternal warning signs
- Getting a timely and accurate diagnosis
- Receiving high-quality healthcare
In 2018, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released new postpartum guidelines aimed at improving fourth-trimester care for women. ACOG recommends that your care be personalized but comprehensive, addressing each of the following areas:
- Chronic disease management
- Health maintenance
- Infant care and feeding
- Mood and emotional well-being
- Physical recovery from birth
- Sexuality, contraception and birth spacing
- Sleep and fatigue
When should you see your doctor for postpartum care?
Plan to discuss your postpartum care with your OB-GYN at your first pregnancy appointment or at any time during your pregnancy. Working as a team, the two of you can come up with a plan that’s right for you. Previously, ACOG recommended that most women schedule a postpartum checkup 4 to 6 weeks after delivering their baby. The new guidelines suggest:
- Having contact with your healthcare provider within 3 weeks of giving birth
- Receiving ongoing medical care during the postpartum period, as needed
- Scheduling a complete postpartum checkup no later than 12 weeks after giving birth
You may need to see your doctor sooner or more frequently if you had pregnancy complications or if you have a chronic health condition.
Healthier tomorrows for moms and babies.
To address maternal mortality in the U.S., HCA Healthcare and the March of Dimes identified mission areas that are expected to have the greatest clinical impact, including quality initiatives and postpartum education. Because HCA Healthcare hospitals deliver more than 215,000 babies each year, we have access to invaluable real-world data that enables us to continually learn and implement new policies and practices to improve prenatal, natal and post-natal care.
This has resulted in HCA Healthcare facilities (including Medical City Healthcare hospitals, which delivered 19,100 babies in 2021) using standardized procedures for managing hypertension during pregnancy, preventing leg blood clots for C-section patients, decreasing deliveries prior to 39 weeks, and controlling postpartum hemorrhage. All of which means healthier tomorrows for more moms and babies.
At Medical City Healthcare, moms and babies are cherished and protected.
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