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April 17, 2011

Your 5-week-old

Smiling is universal. A baby's first smile happens at about the same time in all cultures, so get ready for your baby to reward all your loving care with a beaming, toothless, just-for-you grin. This will probably make your heart melt, even if you've just had your worst night yet.

Soon you'll have the last of the series of checkups that began with your first prenatal trip to your doctor or midwife. Your care provider will want to be sure you're doing fine — emotionally as well as physically — following the stresses of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and becoming a new parent.

During the pelvic exam, your doctor or midwife will want to see that any tears, scratches, or bruises to your vagina or cervix have healed. If your cervix is healed, you may also have a Pap smear. She'll examine your perineum if you had an episiotomy or tearing. She'll also feel your belly to be sure that there's no tenderness, and if you had a c-section she'll inspect your scar to see how it's healing.

Your breasts will be checked as well. If you're breastfeeding, your caregiver will examine you to find out whether you have any clogged ducts, which could lead to an infection like mastitis. If you aren't nursing, she'll want to be sure there are no hard or sore areas that might indicate an infection. She'll also want to see if your milk is drying up.

You'll probably be told it's fine to begin having sex again, although many new moms don't feel their sex drive or energy kick in for a few more weeks or even months. Regardless of your interest level, you ought to discuss postpartum birth control, because it's possible to get pregnant before you've gotten your period back and even if you're breastfeeding.

Your caregiver will also be concerned about your emotional health. As many as 4 out of 5 new moms become mildly depressed, commonly called the baby blues. However, if these down feelings last more than two weeks, you may have postpartum depression, a more serious condition. Your doctor or midwife can recommend interventions that really help, such as a therapist who sees lots of moms like you or an antidepressant that's safe to take when nursing.
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