The Importance of the 6-Week Postpartum Visit

Did you know 1 out of 3 Black birthing parents will experience anxiety/depression and are the least likely to report symptoms?

Black mothers wonder, “If I tell my doctor I’m experiencing anxiety, will my kids get taken away? Will I look weak if I speak about these symptoms?”

When white mothers learn they are pregnant, it’s usually a time of excitement and joy. But for Black mamas, it can be an entirely different experience.

That’s one reason why the 6-week check-up with your doctor is so important.

The Importance of the 6-Week Check-Up

There are many reasons why Black mothers might not make their 6-week check-up. They might be so busy with family and a new baby they can’t find the time. Their doctor might not even offer the screening. If the screening is offered, the right questions might not be asked.

But here’s the thing, mamas — it’s so important for you to recognize what you need so you can show up as your best self.

In the first few weeks after birth, you may experience anxiety, sadness, or depression. These feelings are normal (and are sometimes called “the baby blues”) and should resolve on their own.

But if you’re still experiencing symptoms after 6 weeks, it’s time to find help.

What Happens at the Check-Up

Your doctor will (hopefully) administer what’s called an Edinburgh screening or a patient health questionnaire. Your doctor is then supposed to go over this questionnaire with you and ask any follow-up questions.

They should ask if you feel overwhelmed, more sad than normal, have any excessive crying, etc. And if you answer in the affirmative, they’re supposed to help connect you with resources.

Advocate for Yourself

It’s tough to speak up for yourself, but Black mamas, but it’s so important to do so.

  • If you don’t get a questionnaire, it’s okay to ask for one.
  • If your doctor doesn’t go over the answers with you, it’s okay to ask for a follow-up.
  • If they say everything is normal but YOU don’t feel normal or anything’s not meeting your expectations, it’s okay to ask for further resources.

And most importantly: if you’re not getting the support you need from your doctor, it’s okay to switch providers.

Select a physician that’s culturally competent. You deserve this care.

If You Receive a Referral for Therapy

Mental health is still, unfortunately, largely stigmatized. Especially for Black women. But it’s important to realize this type of care is exactly the same as getting support for a cold or a broken leg.

Your therapist is simply a part of your medical team, here to support you.

Think of it like how you’re feeding your new baby. Whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, fed is best, right? Your baby needs nutrients and you’re providing them.

Therapy is like giving yourself the nutrients you need to grow. Just like your baby needs.

Common Postpartum Mental Health Issues

There are a few very common postpartum mental health issues to be aware of.

Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression are when you feel extreme, debilitating anxiety or depression that interferes with your day-to-day activities. Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD) is heightened postpartum anxiety.

You can also experience postpartum PTSD. This is especially common if you had a traumatic birth experience.

With any postnatal mental health issues, it’s all treatable. It’s hard at the moment and it can feel like it will last forever — but it won’t.

And if you feel like you’re in a crisis, please reach out. You can access the Crisis Help Line online or by texting “HOME” to 741-741.

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