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OHSU Physicians Give Strong Advice For Postpartum Visits

02/09/06  Portland, Ore.

The weeks immediately following the delivery of a baby are an exciting and dynamic time in a woman's life. The first six weeks after the delivery, considered the postpartum time, can also be fraught with emotional and physical complications. Family physicians can insure quality postpartum care through a complete and consistent approach to medical and psychological problems.

 "But health care providers sometimes forget to ask important questions at the postpartum office visit," said OHSU family physician Carol Blenning, M.D., co-author of "An Approach to the Postpartum Office Visit," published in American Family Physician. "These are important issues to include in the postpartum visit and we hope our article can help standardize the approach and make the visit more complete."

 "A structured approach is especially needed at this critical time in a woman's and her child's life. These are issues that address quality of life, the safety and well-being of the mother, baby and others in the family, and for the preservation of relationships," said Heather Paladine, M.D., co-author of the peer-reviewed article. Paladine and Blenning are assistant professors of family medicine, Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine.

 There are several general categories that are sometimes overlooked in a postpartum visit including:
 * Medical complications, such as heavy bleeding, urinary incontinence and thyroid disorders.
 * Breast-feeding difficulties and counseling.
 * Postpartum depression, which can last about seven months if untreated.
 * Sexuality issues, such as low libido and information on how long a woman should wait before resuming intercourse.
 * Contraception methods that are the most effective and healthy for mother as well as baby.

 Blenning's and Paladine's article provides a checklist for health care providers that addresses each of these often-overlooked health and mental issues. They also include a handout for patients to take with them to the doctor's office.

 "A woman should write down her particular concerns or questions and remember to bring that list," said Blenning. "Patients can forget to bring up something that's been troubling them because they didn't have a way to remember once they're in the exam room, face to face with the provider. And parents understandably become somewhat forgetful and distracted when they're caring for a new baby."

 The article is available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20051215/2491.html. 

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