A woman’s body goes through incredible and dynamic changes during the 40(ish) weeks of pregnancy, and even more while she is in labor and delivery. But even after the baby arrives, the changes keep on coming. Once a woman decides to have a baby, her life will be in a constant state of fluctuation.
From soreness and fatigue, to changes in the chest and bleeding, many of the changes that women experience after giving birth are totally normal and to be expected. However, there are things that can happen postpartum that aren’t normal and warrant a trip to the doctor – or even the emergency room.
Since mamas are so attune to their babies needs when they first welcome them, they often forget to look after themselves, which is why we want to shed light on some of the things that can go wrong during those first weeks postpartum.
We can’t stress enough how important it is for new moms to keep an eye on their own health and well-being. After all, mama needs to be in good health to take the best care of her baby.
Here’s a look at some of the things that can go wrong during the postpartum period that all new moms should be aware of. If any of these signs or symptoms become present, it is vital to seek professional medical treatment as soon as possible.
14 Severe Blood Clots
Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, is the medical term used to describe a blood clot that occurs deep in the vein, typically in the leg. If left untreated, the clot can detach and travel through the circulatory system into the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism, a condition that can be life-threatening.
During the postpartum period, the risks of developing DVT increases. The reason for the increased risk during the postpartum period is the result of the body's natural reaction to increase its clotting abilities. Given the amount of bleeding that can occur during delivery, it makes sense. During pregnancy, blood clotting proteins increase and anti-clotting proteins decrease. This, combined with the pressure of an enlarged uterus and bearing down while delivering, can increase the chances of developing a blood clot.
If you develop a painful or heavy feeling in your leg, your calf is warm and/or tender to the touch, or you notice swelling, go see a doctor immediately.
13 Inflamed Uterus
Endometritis is a condition that women are particularly prone to after giving birth. It is a condition that causes the lining of the uterus to become inflamed, and it is typically the result of an infection.
Though endometritis typically isn’t life-threatening, it needs to be medically treated; if left untreated, it can damage the reproductive organs, which can impact fertility and can cause other general health problems to develop.
Any medical procedure that involves entering the uterus via the cervix can increase the chances of developing endometritis; a long labor or C-section, for example. The reason for the increased risk is due to the fact that the uterus is subjected to increased exposure to bacteria.
The signs of endometritis include:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding and/or discharge
- Constipation that doesn’t clear up within a few weeks
- Pain while passing bowels
- A fever
- A general feeling of being ill
- Pelvic pain
Treatment for this condition usually involves antibiotics.
12 Excessive Sweating
As soon as the baby is delivered, the body stops producing all of the hormones that it was producing throughout the entire pregnancy. One of the side effects of evening out the hormone levels is sweating. In fact, some moms notice that they start sweating excessively even just minutes after delivering their babies.
It can take a while for the hormones to even out, which means that sweating may be an issue that new moms will have to battle for a few weeks. If excessive sweating does not resolve within a few weeks, make sure to speak with your OBGYN, as your body may be having a difficult time regulating the hormones and medication may be necessary.
11 Hair Loss
For a lot of women, one of the most desirable side effects of pregnancy is fuller, thicker, and more luxurious hair. The reason: Higher levels of estrogen, which prevents hair from falling out. However, shortly after giving birth, the body starts regulating the pregnancy hormones and reining them in; including, of course, estrogen.
As those estrogen levels start to wane, the hair that you had throughout pregnancy will start falling out. Don’t be alarmed when you see a ton of hair circling the drain or tangle in your brush. If you are concerned that you may be losing too much hair, or you see any bald spots developing, you should speak to a doctor, as there is a slight chance that it could be linked to an underlying condition.
10 Feelings Of Suffocation
Feeling a little blue is totally normal after having a baby, and so is feeling a bit anxious. As a new mom, your top priority is taking care of your baby and making sure that nothing bad happens to him or her. Of course, this can trigger a heightened sense of alertness and vigilance, which can result in a racing mind. However, when worries start to become irrational (you fear that your baby will only be safe in your arms or you always worry that he will suffocate while he is sleeping) and they become so all-encompassing that you start having panic attacks, you could be experiencing postpartum anxiety.
Why does it happen? There are several triggers; for example, the huge shift in hormone levels, coupled with sleep deprivation, the changing dynamic of relationships and your personal life, new responsibilities and the constant care that a newborn requires can all bed combined to create anxiety.
If you are feeling overly anxious, are having irrational thoughts, and/or have experienced anxiety attacks, don’t hesitate to speak to a healthcare provider. There’s no shame in admitting that you may need help.
9 Infections On The Bust
Moms who are breastfeeding may develop nipple thrush. Though it usually occurs the first few weeks after giving birth, it can develop at any point while breastfeeding.
Nipple thrush is a fungal infection that's the result of an overgrowth of Candida albicans, yeast-like organisms that normally exist on the skin and thrive in warm, moist conditions. Since the nipples are warm and moist on a regular basis while breastfeeding, excessive Candida albicans can grow around the nipples.
The signs of nipple thrush often include one or several of the following:
- A sharp, burning pain in the nipples that gets worse while breastfeeding
- Pain that shoots or radiates from the nipple throughout the entire breast
- Nipples that are bright pink in color and appear to be shinier than normal
- Pain that starts in the nipple and shoots back into the rest of the breast
Women who suspect they have nipple thrush should see their doctor. Treatment usually includes the application of antifungal ointments, increased washing of the nipples and airing out the nipples or not wearing a bra.
8 Excessively Dry Skin
In the weeks after giving birth, it is not uncommon for new moms to develop dry skin; and we’re not talking skin that is a slightly flaky and tight – we’re talking excessively dry skin that is super flaky and feels like it's being pulled. The cause of this excessive postpartum dry skin? – Yep, it’s the hormones.
Immediately after giving birth, a woman’s hormones try to return to the levels that they were prior to being pregnant. This sudden decrease in hormone production can lead to a range of issues within the body, including – you guessed it – dry skin.
The good news is that excessive postpartum dry skin usually clears up within a few weeks. Those who are suffering from this post-birth side effect can ease the dryness by increasing their water intake, washing with a gentle cleanser, avoiding hot water and using a mild moisturizer.
7 Bacteria From Breastfeeding
Mastitis is another condition that is associated with breastfeeding. Like nipple thrush, it can occur at any point while breastfeeding.
Mastitis is the medical term used to describe inflammation in the breasts while breastfeeding. It usually develops when bacteria enters the breast via the nipple, typically through a crack or a sore. It can also be the result of not fully emptying the breasts, engorgement and going long stretches between nursing.
Mastitis often begins with pain in the affected breast. The breast may be red, swollen and/or warm to the touch. The mom may also develop a fever, chills and body aches. If left untreated, mastitis will progress and its symptoms will get worse. Advanced mastitis symptoms usually includes excessive swelling of the affected breast, swollen and painful lymph nodes in the armpit that is on the side of the affected breast, rapid heartbeat and flu-like symptoms. Eventually, mastitis can cause an abscess in the breast.
Treatment for mastitis usually includes prescription antibiotics. Resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and wearing loose-fitting clothing is also recommended.
6 Pimple Face
Another common affliction of the skin that new moms experience after giving birth is acne. And again, this skin issue is the result of those sudden and rapid changes in hormone levels.
As we’ve mentioned before, a woman’s hormones try to return to their normal levels immediately after giving birth. As a result of the body’s sudden cessation of hormone production, the skin can start to break out. Decreased hormone production isn’t the only thing to blame for postpartum acne; increased levels of prolactin – the hormone that aides in the production of breast milk – can also cause this skin affliction.
Fortunately, as hormones start to level off, the acne starts to subside. While it is there, though, it can be treated by regularly cleaning the face and using products that treat acne. If necessary, speak to a dermatologist to find out the best treatment option.
5 Burning While Peeing
It is not uncommon for a woman to develop a urinary tract infection after giving birth. All new moms are susceptible to developing an infection, and those who had a catheter during labor and delivery are even more prone.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that can impact any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder and the urethra. It happens when bacteria – usually from the skin, the vagina or the rectum – enters into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) and travels up through the rest of the urinary tract. During birth, a woman’s urethra is more exposed to bacteria, hence the reason why UTIs can develop during the postpartum period.
The signs of a UTI include one or more of the following:
- Pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- An increased need to urinate
However, symptoms may not present at all. It is important for new moms to attend postpartum checkups to ensure a UTI has not developed.
4 Lovemaking Hurts
After having a baby, it is not uncommon for women to experience pain during sexual activities. This pain is often not discovered until 6 weeks or more postpartum because doctors recommend avoiding sexual activity for at least 6 weeks after giving birth (additionally, thanks to lochia – the bleeding that occurs after delivery – having sexual relations usually isn’t possible.)
Painful sex can be attributed to several factors. Women who had a natural birth may still experience pain in their nether regions as a result of pushing the baby out, especially if there was any tearing or if there was an episiotomy. Women who have had a C-section may still be tender in their lower abdomen, which can also make sex painful. Additionally, hormonal changes can impact a woman’s lady bits, making them sore and tender, and thus making sexual activity painful.
3 Hours On The Toilet
Doing #2 can be a real problem for new moms. In fact, it can be downright painful.
Postpartum constipation is real, and it affects a lot of women. Even new moms who didn’t experience constipation during pregnancy may experience it after giving birth. Why does it happen? There are a number of reasons…
Women who deliver vaginally may be tender and sore in the area, which can make it difficult to bear down when the need to go arises. The same is true for women who deliver via C-section; their abdomens are sore and they may feel as if they are going to do damage to the incision if they try to push too hard while going to the bathroom. The longer a woman avoids going to the bathroom, the worse the constipation can get.
Other factors that can cause postpartum constipation include continuing to take a prenatal vitamin, which is usually high in iron and taking an iron supplement. Iron is notorious for stopping up the system. Additionally, pain medications can cause constipation.
Increasing fiber and upping fluid intake should alleviate constipation. Avoid taking medications that are intended to ease this postpartum problem before speaking to a doctor.
2 Difficulty Controlling Bowels
For many women, constipation is an issue after giving birth, but for others, the opposite is a problem. Postpartum fecal incontinence is a real thing, and just like constipation, it’s not fun.
Women who develop fecal incontinence have a hard time controlling their bowel movements. It can cause pain and pressure in the abdomen when the need to go arises, and in some cases, it can actually lead to unexpected soiling. Additionally, it can make it difficult to control passing gas, and can make it hard to differentiate the need to pass gas and actually having to go.
What causes fecal incontinence? Muscles and nerves in the rectum can become injured or damaged during delivery, which can make it difficult to control the bowels. Fortunately, the area heals, and the issue goes away; but until then, it can be pretty embarrassing. Sorry, new mamas!
1 Dark Thoughts
Postpartum depression is an issue that a lot of women deal with, and it often doesn’t set in until several weeks after giving birth.
What causes postpartum depression? There are a number of factors that can contribute to it. Rapid hormone fluctuations are largely to blame, as they can cause significant changes in mood. Add to that the stress of having a new baby and all that it entails, and it is no wonder so many women battle with this condition.
The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression vary from person to person, but can include:
- Not feeling a bond with the baby
- Extreme sadness
- Excessive feeling of guilt
- Feeling extremely overwhelmed
- Feeling numb or empty
- Not being able to sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling disconnected
New moms who suspect they are experiencing postpartum depression should speak with a doctor as soon as possible. There is nothing to be ashamed of and seeking treatment is the best for both mama and baby.