Having a baby is a monumental moment in someone’s life, but sometimes it may feel that the focus is on the pregnancy or baby, not on the person growing and delivering the baby!
Why is that the case? One reason is that, historically, insurance companies covered pregnancy-related care at a single visit 6 weeks postpartum. Another reason is that, to provide evidence-based perinatal care, up to 15 prenatal visits and only one postpartum visit are recommended.
Fortunately, things are changing. In many states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, pregnancy-related federal health insurance (Medicaid) now extends to one year postpartum, giving access to free, preventive care visits with primary care providers for a year after their baby is born. In addition, prenatal care providers are re-centering our care around the realization that the postpartum period can be the most difficult time of the pregnancy/birth experience for many of our patients.
How are we doing this locally? Women & Infants has designed programs that make things easier for our postpartum patients. For example, all patients who have high blood pressure can now participate in a new program that allows them to take their postpartum blood pressure from the comfort of their own home, instead of bringing their two-day-old babies to their prenatal care provider’s office to get their blood pressure done in the clinic. In addition, for over a year, we have offered patients with gestational diabetes the ability to receive their recommended follow-up diabetes screening on the postpartum unit (without impeding their meal delivery) instead of coming to the laboratory fasting six weeks after their baby is born. Lastly, Women and Infants have the Warm Line, a free program for everyone who delivered with us—call 1-800-711-7011 for advice about your infant, breastfeeding, or postpartum issues, and a trained, professional nurse will answer your questions. We also are scheduling more postpartum visits for many of our patients—while some have the traditional single visit, others have three or more visits.
Changes, like we are making at Women & Infants, are extremely important. So many things can happen in the first year after delivery—about 1 in 6 people are diagnosed with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, and about the same proportion of people diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy will still have these conditions a year after their babies are born. Learning about how common these complications can be and what resources your prenatal care or primary care provider has to support you may be just what you need to thrive after your baby was born.
This Mother’s Day, take the opportunity to think about the last time you went to your primary care provider’s office to receive preventive screening. If you have not been recently, make an appointment! Anyone who has an infant younger than one year can make use of this visit—which is usually free!—to make sure they are up to date with their preventive care. If you had diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy—even if this pregnancy was 20 years ago—please see a primary care providers every few years to be screened for diabetes and high blood pressure.
If you are one of the many people having a hard time after your baby is born, know you are not alone. Call the Warm Line for help or speak to your healthcare provider to help determine what support you need. And regardless of whether you find the postpartum period easy or challenging, take advantage of your health insurance to see a primary care provider!
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