The Post-Pregnancy Mistake Half of Women Make

Postpartum doctor visits only attended by about half of women who give birth

(RxWiki News) After women give birth, many medical organizations recommend that they visit a doctor to assess any possible health risks. However, few women do.

A recent study examined pregnant women's insurance claims in the year after giving birth to see how many of them attended doctor's visits.

Researchers found that visit rates were low, although women with pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes were more likely to schedule an appointment.

The researchers suggested that doctors should encourage pregnant patients to visit their primary care doctor in the six weeks after they give birth.

"Visit your primary care physician soon after giving birth."

Wendy Bennett, MD, MPH, of the Division of Internal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the study.

During pregnancy, complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Women who have pregnancy complications are recommended to schedule at least one post-delivery follow-up visit with their health care provider.

This study investigated how often women with and without pregnancy complications visited their doctors post-delivery.

Researchers obtained data claims from Medicaid and a private health insurance plan from 7,741 women with complicated pregnancies and 23,599 women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

Women with complicated pregnancies had gestational diabetes, pregestational diabetes, or blood pressure problems like preeclampsia or chronic high blood pressure.

The researchers looked to see if each of the women visited a primary care provider at least once within the 12 months following delivery. They also noted if the woman visited an OB/GYN during the three months after delivery.

The researchers found that 56.6 percent of women on Medicaid who had pregnancy complications visited their doctor after giving birth. Comparatively, 51.7 percent of women on Medicaid who had no complications attended a primary care visit.

Among women with commercial health insurance, 60 percent of the complicated pregnancy group and 49.5 percent of the comparison group visited a doctor after giving birth.

The researchers also found that, in the Medicaid group, 65 percent of women with pregnancy complications and 61.5 percent of women without complications visited an OB/GYN within three months of giving birth.

Women with commercial insurance had lower rates of OB/GYN visits — with 50.8 percent of women with complicated pregnancies and 44.6 percent of women with uncomplicated pregnancies attending an OB/GYN appointment.

The researchers concluded that only 56.6 percent of women experiencing a pregnancy complication had a follow-up visit with a primary care doctor. Additionally, only 51.7 percent of women without complications visited their doctors in the year after giving birth.

The authors of the study suggested that the medical community should improve outreach and education about postpartum care to women who may experience pregnancy complications.

This study was published on February 5 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 7, 2014