Many New Mothers Skip Important 6-Week Checkup, Study Finds

FRIDAY, Feb. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Only half of new mothers in the United States make the recommended visit to a doctor six weeks after giving birth, a new study finds.

Women who experienced complications during pregnancy were more likely than others to see a doctor, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

"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," lead researcher Dr. Wendy Bennett, assistant professor of medicine, said in a university news release.

"Women with pregnancy complications are at higher risk for some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease," Bennett said. "These visits are an opportunity to assess risks and refer to primary-care providers to work on long-term preventive care."

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other groups recommend that new mothers who had high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy visit their obstetrician six weeks after giving birth and their primary-care doctor within a year.

The Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed data from new mothers enrolled in one private health insurance plan and numerous Medicaid plans in Maryland.

Among those on Medicaid, the tax-supported insurance program, 65 percent of those with complicated pregnancies and 62 percent of those without complicated pregnancies made a visit to an obstetrician within three months after giving birth. Among those with private insurance, the rates were 51 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

In the Medicaid group, 57 percent of women with complicated pregnancies and 52 percent of those without complicated pregnancies saw a primary-care doctor within a year. Among those with private insurance, the rates were 60 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

The study was published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Doctors and hospitals should offer services such as child care or transportation to help new mothers get to doctor appointments, Bennett said.

"Pregnancy is a teachable moment -- many women are very motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices to keep themselves and their babies healthy," she said. "After a birth, we need to keep them motivated."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about postpartum care.