BACKGROUND: Despite the practice of routine postnatal check-ups, many women experience problems in the months after childbirth. General practitioners (GPs) are involved in routine postnatal care, yet little research has been undertaken to explore this role. AIM: To report the views of Australian GPs as to what physical examination and discussion should take place at the routine six week postnatal check-up and to determine the influence of gender on the approach to the check-up. METHOD: Postal survey of 1104 Australian GPs, yielding an eligible sample of 1022. RESULTS: A total of 715/1022 (70%) usable surveys returned. Over 65% of GPs recommend routine examination of the abdomen, blood pressure, perineum, vagina, pelvic floor, and breasts at the six week check-up. Fewer than a half the sample believed that physical problems (urine and bowel symptoms, back problems), sexual issues, relationship and parenting issues should be routinely discussed. After controlling for age, practice location, obstetric practice, and qualifications, the sex of the GP remains an important factor influencing the GP's approach to postnatal care. Female GPs are three times more likely to believe that maternal feelings should be discussed routinely and about twice as likely to believe that infant sleeping/behaviour, maternal sleeping/diet/tiredness, coping with other children, relationship with partner, and household work should form part of the routine discussion with all recent mothers. CONCLUSIONS: Sex of practitioner and older age (60 years or more) are the two most important influences on a GP's approach to postnatal care. This study indicates a need for GPs to shift their focus from routine examination to indicated examination to allow more time to discuss common postnatal problems.