Take These Steps to Optimize Postpartum Care

Posted July 5, 2016 by Stacy Bolzenius

Tips to Optimize Postpartum Care

Looking objectively at postpartum care in the U.S., it looks like a series of inter-disciplinary visits without a continuity of care or system of communication between the disciplines. Even if the practitioners are the same, the communication between inpatient and outpatient women’s health care is inconsistent. This is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has released a committee opinion on optimizing postpartum care within the OB/GYN community.

Postpartum Care Begins During Pregnancy

In order to maximize the postpartum care experience, it is vital to begin that process in anticipation of delivery. During this visit, the patient is instructed on how to form a postpartum care plan, identifying the practitioners who will be a part of that care team for her and her baby. In an ideal plan, one OB/GYN would assume responsibility for coordinating her care and she would receive written instructions upon discharge from the hospital on setting and keeping postpartum appointments.

Timing of the Postpartum Visit

Ideally, all women would undergo a comprehensive examination four to six weeks after giving birth, with earlier follow-up for those exhibiting pregnancy-related hypertension, those recovering from a cesarean section, those with chronic medical conditions requiring medication, or those at higher risk of developing postpartum depression.

More practitioners are scheduling the postpartum follow up in the four-week timeframe in order to account for scheduling conflicts and provide support for issues that arise sooner in the postpartum period. Phone support throughout the postpartum period also appears to reduce depression scores, increase patient satisfaction and improve breastfeeding.

As many as 40 percent of women who have given birth do not attend a postpartum visit.

What is Discussed During a Postpartum Visit?

It is during this visit that guidance on infant feeding, returning to work or school, losing postpartum weight, resuming sexual and physical activity and nutrition are given. Any complications may be discussed at this time as well as preventative measures that can be taken to avoid such complications in a future pregnancy or delivery.

But according to the ACOG, as many as 40 percent of women who have given birth do not attend a postpartum visit. Vital opportunities are being missed for identification of women’s health needs, such as postpartum mental health interventions, contraception, pregnancy-related hypertension monitoring, or other aspects of patients’ physical, social and mental well-being.

Transfer of Care

At the end of the postpartum visit, it is vital to determine who will be managing the patient’s ongoing care. If the patient will be returning to her primary care provider, there must be a plan in place for communicating with that provider in order to maintain continuity of care. If 40 percent of women are not attending a postpartum visit, primary care physicians are receiving women into their care without vital information about pregnancy complications that may affect their overall health.

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In order to maximize your patients’ postpartum care while focusing on preparation for the board exam, register for one of our live OB/GYN CME Conferences. This fast-paced learning environment gives you a chance to study best practices from expert faculty, attend a mock exam and immerse yourself in five days of learning how to maximize your patients’ experience.