You’ve waited 9 months to meet your baby. Your body has nurtured a person inside you, then labored intensely to deliver your little miracle. And even after 6 weeks postpartum, you’re still not feeling back to normal. All that stretching and pushing has taken a toll on your pelvic floor muscles, so you’re looking forward to some answers at the postpartum 6-week checkup.
What to expect at your postpartum 6-week checkup
As much as a postpartum care appointment can be reassuring for new moms, this obstetrician visit at 6 weeks postpartum might have you a little anxious, especially because your body may be sore and is still recovering from giving birth. Knowing what to expect can help ease your fears.
- Can I bring baby? As with most appointments, usually you may bring baby, but it might be distracting if your baby is fussy or needs changing/feeding. This is your chance to ask questions and make sure you’re healing well, so you might want to make a list of concerns before your appointment.
- Will there be an internal exam? Your obstetrician most likely will do a gentle pelvic exam, as well as examine your breasts and any incisions or stitches. You’ll also be asked about sleep habits (or lack thereof), contraception and emotional health.
- Will I get time to ask questions? Now is the time to whip out your list of questions. Be honest with any difficulties you’re experiencing, physically or emotionally, so you can get advice that specifically addresses your needs. Some common concerns include: Can I exercise? Is it safe to have sex 6 weeks postpartum? Is it normal to leak urine, and how do I stop leaking? How long until my vagina feels normal?
What’s going on down there?
- Your pelvic floor and why it’s important. The muscles that constitute your pelvic floor support the uterus, bladder, and rectum. When these muscles are stretched during pregnancy and childbirth, they can become slack, sometimes resulting in a leaky bladder, fecal incontinence, or even painful sexual intercourse.
- Why do I have a leaky bladder? One common complaint for women 6 weeks postpartum is urinary incontinence. You might notice a small leak when you sneeze, laugh, or exert yourself. One of the best ways to combat postpartum incontinence is to perform Kegel exercises, which essentially works out those pelvic floor muscles so they tighten up and provide strong support for your bladder.
- When can I start having sex, and will it feel the same? The general recommendation for postpartum intercourse is 4–6 weeks. However, each new mother heals at a different rate, so the main factor in deciding when sex works for you is your recovery progress and comfort level. Some common concerns are: Will sex 6 weeks postpartum be painful? Will sex feel different after having a baby? If intercourse is uncomfortable, you may need to heal longer or enlist the help of a lubricant or over-the-counter pain relief. And don’t forget your Kegels. Consistently doing your Kegel exercises will increase blood circulation and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, accelerating your recovery.
What are Kegel exercises?
- How do I do Kegel exercises? Kegels build up strength in your pelvic floor by tightening and relaxing those muscles on a regular basis. One way to identify pelvic floor muscles is to imagine interrupting urination/a bowel movement or gripping something with your vagina. You want your internal muscles to contract, not your buttocks or abdominal muscles. The movement should be imperceptible to someone else, but you can feel it.
- How often should I do Kegels? Practice contracting your pelvic floor muscles for 3–5 seconds. Do this cycle 3 times per session, and try to do 3 sessions a day.
- How do I know if I’m doing Kegels correctly? It can be difficult to remember to do your Kegels consistently, and even more challenging to know if you are doing Kegels effectively. As a new mom, your sleep is often interrupted, your body is healing, and you don’t have much alone time to practice Kegels. There are in-home devices that can help.
Kegel In-home Devices
If you’re still experiencing leaks or simply can’t remember to do your Kegels, it might be time to explore in-home Kegel exercise devices.
- Internal devices. Kegel weights, trainers and vaginal probes offer a range of in-home therapies for pelvic floor health. However, the invasive nature of these treatments (each must be inserted vaginally) makes them unappealing for use 6 weeks postpartum. Insertion may be uncomfortable, and there is a risk of infection if not sanitized properly.
- External devices. ELITONE is a non-invasive, FDA-cleared treatment that uses gentle electrical stimulation to correctly contract your pelvic floor muscles. Discreet, disposable GelPads are worn under your clothing, while a controller allows you to determine the stimulation level. Many women see improvement in as few as 6 weeks.
During what seems like the chaos of your body’s postpartum recovery, there are simple, at-home solutions to improve your pelvic floor health. Paired with recommendations from your postpartum 6-week checkup, ELITONE works toward your speedy recovery by gently doing your Kegel exercises for you. By strengthening these pelvic floor muscles, you will safely and effectively decrease annoying leaks and pave the way to restoring a pleasurable sex life.