Giving birth is a beautiful thing. A woman carries new life inside of her, and then shares that life with the rest of the world. During this process, however, there are innumerable physical changes that the woman undergoes. Extreme hormone changes, skin conditions, cravings, all part of a normal pregnancy.
However, what most people don’t talk about is that after the pregnancy, things don’t just go back to normal right away. There are still crazy hormonal changes, and the body needs to recover after undergoing the trauma of childbirth. There will, of course, be some bleeding, and some mood changes and such, but most of those go unnoticed, especially when holding the new life in her arms.
Therefore, it is difficult to tell what is a normal part of the postpartum life and what is something to be concerned about. Especially in a new mother, worries are something that is going to happen pretty frequently, so it’s important to know what is potentially dangerous, and what is just normal post pregnancy stuff. Of course, it is a good idea to have the doctor’s number readily available, and to have some sort of plan if something should go wrong.
With that said, it’s important not to fret over every little creak or pop, so to say. It’s important for a woman to listen to her instincts; if she thinks something is really wrong, then it probably is. However, it is still a good idea to arm yourself with the knowledge of what is potentially dangerous, and what is normal. Here we will discuss the dangerous ones, ones where if a woman experiences, she should seek medical help for.
15 Excessive Bleeding
It would seem that after giving birth, a good amount of blood is to be expected. And it is, to a point. However, there is a certain amount of blood that is too much blood. There is a condition called postpartum hemorrhage, which occurs most often while the placenta is separating from the uterus. While that is happening, the blood vessels that were attached to the placenta bleed into the uterus. After the delivery of the placenta, the uterus contracts and closes off these vessels. Sometimes though, that doesn’t happen properly, and too much blood is lost. If it becomes a hemorrhage within 24 hours of the birth, it is known as an immediate or primary PPH, and if it happens in the weeks following the delivery, it is known as a late, delayed, or secondary PPH.
There are other, less likely situations that could cause a PPH. These include cervical lacerations, deep tears in the vaginal tissue, or even a ruptured uterus. The ruptured uterus is incredibly unlikely, however, and isn’t something most doctors are even worried about. The type of treatment received depends on the reason for the hemorrhage.
14 If These Don't Go Away
During a vaginal delivery, there are many things happening down there that cause a good deal of trauma. Oftentimes an episiotomy is performed, which is a small surgical incision to the perineum, to give the baby more room to come out. If this is not done, or if it is not done soon enough, then the perineum could tear. These are the things a new mom wants to look out for, as it is a pretty serious wound, and it could become infected. This is generally the case when there is any sort of discharge or persistent pain.
Another place to watch out for signs of infection is if the baby was delivered via c-section. Same as in the perineum, it is a pretty substantial wound, and even though it was done surgically, it can still become infected. If a new mother notices any discharge, extra redness, or extra pain around that scar, then she should call her healthcare provider. Again, it is probably due to some infection.
13 Sadness That Lasts Longer Than 10 Days
It’s normal to feel some amount of sadness after a woman gives birth. For the past nine months she has been carrying her child inside of her, and then one day, all of a sudden, the baby comes out, and it is a whole new chapter in the mother’s life. In addition to that, her hormones have been on a roller coaster ride for those nine months, and now that the baby is out of her, she will go through one more series of changes in her hormones that often cause women to feel weepy, sad, or somewhat unstable emotionally. However, if these feelings persist beyond a few weeks, generally ten days, then she probably has postpartum depression.
This is a very serious condition, as it affects not only the mother, but the mother’s ability to take care of the baby. If she feels empty inside, too sad, or even feelings of resentment towards the baby, this is bad news for obvious reasons. Although postpartum depression is a serious condition, it isn’t something to feel ashamed about, and the woman should certainly seek treatment for it.
12 Unwanted Inflammation
A high fever at any time is something to be concerned about, but after a delivery is especially a time to worry. A postpartum fever is diagnosed if the mother has a fever of 100.4° F for two days in the first ten day period after the delivery. It can mean a whole slew of things, but generally, it means that a condition known as endometritis, which is an inflammation in the uterine lining due to infection. Generally, a round of antibiotics should clear this up. Endometritis is the cause for over half of the cases of postpartum fever.
There are other causes for postpartum fever, however, including a urinary tract infection, an infection of the wound, either vaginal or c-section, or a condition known as atelectasis, which is the partial or complete collapse of the lung. This is an aftereffect of many surgeries, with the delivery of a baby being one of the more common ones.
11 Trouble Going To The Bathroom
Although some amount of discomfort going to the bathroom is normal after a vaginal birth, if it persists, or is unbearable, then a call to the doctor is a good idea. Oftentimes it is due to a urinary tract infection, which is fairly common after giving birth vaginally. These can usually be cleared up with a round of antibiotics. However, there are other possibilities for this uncomfortable feeling.
One of these other possibilities is that the wound opened up, and the urine is actually getting inside the open wound. A catheter is sometimes inserted, especially if there is an epidural used, so that often causes some leftover irritation. There is also a good deal of vaginal tears and swelling after giving birth, and this can cause discomfort while urinating. Most of the time, a burning sensation is normal, and will go away on its own, but the woman should still bring it up, just in case it is, in fact, a UTI or a bladder infection.
10 If Legs Are Looking Different
After a woman gives birth, there is a certain amount of swelling to be expected. Between the fluid retention during the pregnancy, and the hormonal changes, a certain amount of swelling is completely normal. However, if the legs are swollen, and there is pain involved, especially in the calves, then it is a good idea to call the doctor. These things could be a sign of high blood pressure.
Another thing to be worried about when it comes to pain in your legs is the possibility of a blood clot, also known as deep vein thrombosis. Blood clots are caused when the blood doesn’t flow properly, and it, therefore, tends to pool and build up in one place. This occurs often after pregnancy because of the extra pressure put on the veins by all the extra fluids. The doctor will be able to tell you if it is high blood pressure or a blood clot. Both conditions can be very serious, so be sure to call the doctor if any of these symptoms are experienced.
9 Painful Lumps Where They Shouldn't Be
One thing that can be an issue for some women is if they have red streaks or painful lumps on their breast. Oftentimes this is caused by a blocked or plugged duct in the breast, which means that there is some obstruction that prevents milk from coming out properly. It’s like if a cow goes un-milked, it gets to be pretty painful. Many times this is caused by insufficient emptying, either due to latching problems or an ineffective suck on the baby’s end.
Sometimes the obstruction isn’t the baby’s fault, however, and can actually be caused by an infection. There aren’t too many ways to treat the issue, but there are some ways, including bed rest, increasing fluids, upping the focus on the nutrition for the mom, and having her get help around the house. Oftentimes fatigue can be a big factor in these obstructions, as mom’s body gets worn down, things stop working the way they are supposed to. The issue should not be ignored, however, as it will only get worse.
8 Severe Pain Where Baby Once Was
Severe pain in the lower belly is one of the symptoms for one of the most common complications that occur after birth. Oftentimes this is a symptom of a pelvic infection, or an infection of the uterus. It is much more common in women who have given birth via c-section, but it can happen in women who delivered vaginally as well. Antibiotics can usually clear up the issue.
A uterine infection can affect the lining of the uterus, the wall of the uterus, or the muscles of the uterus. If left untreated it could be difficult to become pregnant again, sex could become painful, or an abscess could form in the uterus if it gets too out of hand. Often two different types of antibiotics will be prescribed to cover all the bases of the possible bacteria. Although most women who just gave birth aren’t really thinking about sex, they should still abstain until the cycle of antibiotics has ended.
7 Sickening Feeling
Again, this is a tricky one, as some amount of nausea is common after pregnancy. The body needs to readjust to the changing hormones again; the placenta holds most of the pregnancy hormones, so when that is delivered, the mother needs to readjust yet again, and it can often feel like morning sickness all over again. However, there could also be some gallbladder issues going on, which is a fairly common occurrence after pregnancy. What many people find necessary is to start a food journal to record what they eat, when they eat it, and how they feel afterward. This can help narrow down the possible reasons for the upset stomach.
There are other potential causes of nausea and vomiting after birth. One of the most simple to fix but possibly harmful ones is dehydration. Not only is there a great amount of sweating and persistent urination going on, due to the retained fluids, but breastfeeding actually saps the mother of fluids inside of her as well. It could also be an iron deficiency, as there is a large amount of blood lost during the delivery itself.
6 Chest Pain
This one may seem like a no brainer, but if a woman is experiencing chest pain after birth, she should probably go to the ER (as should anyone else, chest pain is a symptom of some bad stuff.) One possible reason for chest pain after birth is a blood clot, which we discussed earlier. However, another possible reason is a condition known as postpartum cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy means heart muscle disease, and it is basically when the chambers of the heart enlarge and the muscle itself weakens. This means that less blood exits the left ventricle of the heart, which means the entire body doesn’t get quite as much blood as it needs.
Chest pain could also mean that the mother has high blood pressure. If this were the case, it would often be accompanied by other symptoms, such as a severe headache, irregular heartbeat, or excessive sweating. However, these symptoms only crop up when the blood pressure is extremely high, and most of the time high blood pressure goes without any symptoms.
5 Difficulty Breathing
This is another one that anyone should have checked out, even if they are not someone who just gave birth. However, a woman who has just given birth may experience difficulty breathing for a few different reasons. One of them is again postpartum cardiomyopathy. As this is a heart disease, it comes with a lot of the common heart symptoms: chest pain, difficulty breathing, clammy palms, things like that. It’s a scary feeling, but it’s important to try and not dwell on it, as anxiety can increase these feelings as well. Of course, definitely, see a doctor.
Another possible explanation for having a tough time breathing is that while the baby is inside the mother’s womb, oftentimes the organs get sort of pushed around and smashed. Many times, the diaphragm ends up pushed up into the chest cavity a bit, and therefore cannot expand the way it should be able to. This is also one possible reason for limited mobility in the thoracic spine after delivery; the organs can get moved around a bit.
4 Signs Of Shock
Something that should certainly not be avoided is signs of shock. These can include severe restlessness and disorientation, fast heart rate, low blood pressure, low body temperature, and cool and clammy skin. Oftentimes a postpartum woman will display these signs if she has gone into septic shock. Septic shock is when bacteria gets into the bloodstream and spreads throughout the entire body.
Septic shock is usually caused by a severe kidney infection, an abdominal infection, or a uterine infection that has gone untreated. Antibiotics can help the situation, but the doctor should first focus on correcting the blood circulation. Oftentimes an IV will be inserted to regulate fluids, and the vitals will all be closely monitored. Depending on how far along the infection is, surgery may also be required. Sometimes it’s as simple as draining some pus that may have collected in the pelvis, but sometimes it can be as extreme as actually removing some of the infected organs.
3 Headache That Won't Stop
It’s common for a woman to experience a headache after she has given birth. That’s a lot of pushing that needs to be done, and as most people know, exerting that sort of force can oftentimes result as a headache. It’s also possibly a result of an epidural (if one was used) or even to some of the medication, such as the spinal anesthesia. However, sometimes it can be a signal of something a bit more serious than that. A headache can be a sign of extremely high blood pressure, which in a pregnant woman is known as preeclampsia or, if it progresses far enough, eclampsia.
Preeclampsia has many symptoms, including a severe headache, but also blurred vision and nausea. If a woman is experiencing these symptoms, she should certainly call her doctor right away, as these could progress into eclampsia, which are seizures caused by the high blood pressure.
2 Increased Blood Pressure
This is another one that is a normal occurrence to a point, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on. As we just saw, high blood pressure in a pregnant or recently non-pregnant woman is called preeclampsia. If that progresses into eclampsia, the woman could start having seizures as a result. Preeclampsia also comes with an increased level of protein in the urine, so that is another thing to test during the diagnosis.
Other symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling in the face or hands, headaches, excessive weight gain, vision problems, and difficulty urinating. If it progresses to eclampsia, then the sufferer may experience seizures, loss of consciousness, agitation, headaches or muscle pain, and some abdominal pain. A woman is more at risk if she becomes pregnant after the age of 35, if she is carrying twins, if it is her first time being pregnant, or if she has a history of eating poorly.
1 Manic Behavior
Much like postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis is brought on by the extreme hormone changes that occur in a new mom’s body. Manic behavior is often the best way to determine if the woman may be coming down with the mental health issue, but other symptoms include confusion, severe agitation, or hallucinations. Although it occurs less frequently than PP depression, PP psychosis is just as worrisome, if not more so. There is less understanding of this condition, and it happens much more quickly than PP depression.
Oftentimes hospitalization is required to treat this condition, as well as antipsychotic drugs, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers. It is believed that PP psychosis is actually a form of bipolar disorder, brought on by the stress of carrying and then delivering a child. It’s incredibly rare, and occurs in only about 1 in every 1000 pregnancies. Statistically, women who are hospitalized right after delivery are at a higher risk of suicide.
Sources: BabyCenter.com, MarchOfDimes.org, FitPregnancy.com, MedScape.com, HelloFlo.com