After nine months of watching what they eat, taking their vitamins, and visiting obstetricians like clockwork, many new moms are skipping out on important postpartum doctor’s appointments. That is the conclusion of a study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins. Although the women who had complications during their pregnancy are more prone to follow up with their doctors, overall the visit rates are lower than they should be.
“Women need to understand the importance of a six-week visit to the obstetrician — not only to address concerns and healing after delivery but also to follow up on possible future health risks, review the pregnancy and make the transition to primary care,” says Wendy Bennett, M.D. to Science Daily. She is the assistant professor of medicine and the lead researcher for the study. “Women with pregnancy complications are at higher risk for some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and these visits are an opportunity to assess risks and refer to primary care providers to work on long-term preventive care.”
According to guidelines put out by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, any woman who had issues with high blood pressure or gestational diabetes should see their OB at least six weeks after the birth. The significance of having these conditions during pregnancy is that they could be an indicator of long-term health issues that need to be monitored. After that initial postpartum visit, moms should follow up with a check-up by their primary care physician within the year. Yes, this is an addition to all the trips you’ll be making to the pediatrician with your newborn!
Here’s how the study broke down the numbers:
Of the women with Medicaid insurance, 56.6% with complications from pregnancy and 51.7% with no complications paid a visit to their primary care physicians within a year of delivery.
Of the women with commercial health insurance, 60% with complications from pregnancy and 49.6% with no complications had a check-up within the first year of delivery.
With regard to obstetric visits within three months of delivery, 65% of Medicaid recipients with pregnancy complications and 61.5% without complications made follow-up visits. For commercial insurance holders, the rates are lower at 50.8% and 44.6%. In a perfect world, it should be 100% across the board.
Dr. Bennett suggests that providers take a page from a pilot program set up at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. This involves “mommy-baby” visits that combine the mother’s check-up with the baby’s appointment. Even home visits or exams at daycare centers could help increase the follow-up appointments.
“Pregnancy is a teachable moment — many women are very motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices to keep themselves and their babies healthy. After a birth, we need to keep them motivated,” says Dr. Bennett.