15 Postpartum Complications New Moms Never Expect

By the time most of us find ourselves pregnant, we’ve learned a thing or two about it from friends, our mothers, or even television. We know that we have nine long months ahead that might bring about a few curveballs, but we rarely think ahead of that. In the pregnant mother’s mind, everything that comes after the pregnancy is about the baby. We aren’t sitting around thinking about how our hemorrhoids will heal.

Truth be told, hemorrhoids are the least of most women’s concerns — even if they don’t know it. There are some pretty serious side effects involved in having a baby that can occur after the baby has been born, and no one is really talking about them.

This goes beyond postpartum depression and mastitis, ladies. Women need to be just as prepared for postpartum complications as they are for pregnancy complications. In fact, it’s even riskier not to be because most new mothers are so consumed with taking care of their little ones after birth that they don’t pay much attention to themselves. Knowing the signs of some of these complications can be the difference between life and death. It’s not to be taken lightly. Our babies need us.

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15 Holy Hemorrhage

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Up to 5 percent of women struggle with hemorrhage in the postpartum period. This substantial blood loss can be caused by a myriad of different factors. Most of the time when it does occur, it happens right after Mom births the placenta. The organ detaches from the uterine wall and leaves behind a gaping wound. Sometimes, the blood just doesn’t clot well enough, and hemorrhage occurs.

Generally, clotting occurs as the uterus continues to contract and effectively stomp out the bleeding from blood vessels in the womb. In some cases, uterine atony occurs and contractions are not strong enough to do such.

Certain conditions do make hemorrhage more likely. They include: placenta previa, placental abruption, forceps- or vacuum-assisted deliveries, the use of Pitocin, infection, a lengthy labor, preeclampsia, and more.

14 WTH Is Sheehan Syndrome?

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Also known as postpartum hypopituitarism, this condition usually stems from a woman losing too much blood during childbirth. In some cases, it may also be caused by extremely low maternal blood pressure during or following labor.

Following these events, the pituitary gland stops producing the right amount of hormones that it once did. Thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, prolactin and more can be effected. This leads many women to struggle with breastfeeding after having their babies, because they aren’t producing enough prolactin to make milk.

When the pituitary gland is damaged in this way, it can cause the mother to develop secondary adrenal insufficiency. Thus, Sheehan syndrome is just the beginning of a cascade of other issues that can arise. Furthermore, women with Sheehan syndrome may have a more difficult time conceiving more children, because the syndrome can cause severe menstrual irregularities, hormonal imbalance, and drastic weight loss that can also impact fertility.

13 Hang Tight, Placenta

It just won't let go. Doctors are sometimes insistent that women hurry to birth the placenta. They want to wrap things up with labor. The baby is here. Let’s get this show on the road!

For most women, the placenta will be birthed in less than a half hour, but some may take an hour or more. It’s important to let the mother’s body have this time to birth the organ naturally. Intervening and trying to rush things along can lead to birth-related injuries.

That being said, sometimes the placenta doesn’t come out completely intact. Little slivers of it may stay behind in the womb, and when this happens, it can cause a lot of problems for the mother. For starters, she may develop an infection postpartum that requires a hefty dose of antibiotics and surgery to remove the remaining fragments if her body fails to fully expel them.

Women experience lochia and a bloody discharge for two to eight weeks following the birth of their babies. During this time, the uterus will continue contracting down to its pre-pregnancy size. At the same time, remaining pieces of pregnancy product should be expelled. If they aren’t, pieces that remain attached can also hinder a mom’s milk supply.

12 Doing “It” Hurts So Bad

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Sex is never supposed to be painful. That’s what everyone says. Well everyone apparently hasn’t had a traumatic birth experience. Yours may have been blissful, but your vagina may disagree. If you experienced any kind of lacerations during birth — even minor ones that required no stitching — you may have discomfort during sex afterward.

For some women, it gets better with time. For others, uncomfortable sex is something they have to work around for the rest of their lives. It’s no small feat. If you’d rather birth another baby than get it on with your hubby, that’s a problem worth discussing with your doctor.

Experimenting with different positions can help. So can making sure things are good and lubricated. Many women experience a drop in libido during the postpartum period. Their hormones are plummeting even more so if they’re breastfeeding, and they just aren’t in the mood. Likewise, breastfeeding keeps your sex hormones at bay and may dry you out down below. Lube is your friend, ladies!

11 I Can See My Cervix… Hanging Out Of Me

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Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition most people have heard of on their average commercial break, but few pay attention to — until it affects you, that is. In short, when the muscles and ligaments in the abdomen grow lax, they can give way and allow the uterus to droop. This leads to uterine and/or cervical prolapse — wherein the cervix is actually protruding from the vagina.

This is more than a physical malady, though. It causes hip and groin pain, incontinence, and pain during sex and bowel movements. More importantly, it’s a problem that gets little recognition because it’s written off as an issue that pertains only to women.

Unfortunately, most insurance companies won’t pay for any kind of procedure to rectify these issues until they are severe. So, for women with more minor prolapses — which are still quite traumatic to deal with and uncomfortable as well as embarrassing — they are often given the brush-off by their doctors.

10 Burdensome Bladder And Bowel

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Some women will need those Depends diapers far beyond the postpartum bleeding phase. Remember, the overhead diagnosis is pelvic organ prolapse. Read: virtually any organ in the pelvic region. Thus, it’s not just limited to your uterus. Those lax ligaments in your pelvic cavity can also give way and allow your bladder and bowel to essentially fall from grace.

This can lead to both urinary and bowel incontinence, as well as extreme pain for the individual experiencing it. The risk of infection runs higher with both, as well. Chronic constipation can also contribute to bowel prolapse, which isn’t good news for mommies who find themselves backed up throughout pregnancy due to all that progesterone they’re making. Sometimes during birth the baby can also tear critical muscles in the pelvic floor that help to support these organs. When severe enough, repairs can be made surgically.

9 OMG My Head

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At least 60 percent of laboring women opt for the epidural to cope with the pain of childbirth. This medication comes with serious potential side effects, and one of them is the post dural puncture headache.

This occurs whenever the anesthesiologist punctures the dura matter membrane that surrounds the spinal cord — and the brain — when administering the epidural or spinal anesthesia during labor. As a result of this puncture, spinal fluid leaks out of the spinal column. This causes the pressure being placed on the brain and spinal cord to be reduced, and in turn causes a headache.

This throbbing headache usually kicks in around a few hours after the epidural is administered. That means it’ll severely affect labor for some women. For others, it doesn’t start causing brain pain until a day or two postpartum. These headaches are debilitating and can last over a week. For new mothers, it seems like one of the worst things that can happen at this phase in their lives. Typically, a blood patch procedure is needed to seal the hole(s) in the dura matter that are causing the pain.

8 New Mothers And Strokes

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Most women have never concerned themselves with the worry of a stroke. After all, that’s something that happens to older people, right? It certainly isn’t happening to women of childbearing age, is it? Think again. Postpartum stroke happens, and it’s occurring more and more in recent years. When rates of postpartum stroke were compared between 1994 and 1995 against those that occurred between 2006 and 2007, it was found that they had risen by a dramatic 83 percent.

It is thought that the primary risk factors for postpartum stroke are similar to those of any stroke, including being overweight and having high blood pressure or diabetes. Other pre-existing conditions may further complicate matters, too.

During the initial postpartum period — which is really about twelve weeks long — women should be on the lookout for pain, redness or swelling in their extremities that may signal a blood clot. There is a short period of time in which doctors can intervene to stop the damage that a stroke may cause — including death. If you think you have symptoms, don’t wait.

7 This Is Not Just PMS

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By the time we reach the end of pregnancy, most all of us have heard about postpartum depression and anxiety. If you’ve done your research, you’ve probably prepped yourself on the ins and outs of postpartum psychosis, too. But what about premenstrual dysphoric disorder? Angry tirades followed by emotional meltdowns? Excessive irritability?

This life-altering condition has claimed more lives than anyone realizes and continues to fly under the radar amongst pregnant mommies despite the fact that — it commonly develops in the postpartum period. Typically aligned with the menstrual cycle, PMDD looks a lot like PPD or PPA that comes and goes every few weeks, providing brief glimpses of relief and a normal life. Still, it can appear way before the cycle ever actually returns.

The rage, anger, mood swings, cravings, fatigue, nightmares, night sweats, blue mood, panic and more that ensue drive women to the brink every month before cycling back around to start it all over again. If you’ve been picking fights with your hubby and trying to end your marriage every month since you had the baby, it may actually be PMDD.

6 I’m All Numb Down There

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Many women get through childbirth without tearing at all. Thus, the need for stitches isn’t something that pertains to every mother. In fact, many women can even sustain minor tears and go without stitches, as well.

Regardless of whether there is tearing, an episiotomy, or stitches, some women will complain of numbness down below after childbirth. Understandably, that entire region is swollen for a while, and it’s nothing that most women ever care to grab a mirror and check out. They’re bleeding and oozing lochia and have lacerations. They’ll wait for things to heal up a bit better.

Initially, the swelling in the vagina makes almost every woman feel a bit numb down there. As that swelling subsides and the padsicles all melt away, women may find that their perineum feels somewhat numb even as sensation has returned to the rest of their lady bits. This can go on for months and even years in some women who have sustained nerve damage in that area either from tearing or being cut.

5 It Feels Like I’m In Labor… Again

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Childbirth comes with intense pain, and many people actually liken it to that which is caused by the passing of kidney stones. Having experienced both, I can attest to the similarity. Unfortunately, kidney stones are actually quite common during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Some people believe this is due to the increased calcium consumption of women taking prenatal vitamins.

Whatever the cause, the kidney stones themselves often aren’t the problem. Rather, the ureters dilate during pregnancy and again even more after birth. This allows stones that have formed and been sitting in the kidneys during pregnancy to start to move after a woman delivers her baby.

The end result is a distraught new mother in the hospital passing kidney stones just days into her new baby’s life. Having been there myself, I assure you it happens far more frequently than I care to think about — and it sucks.

4 Pre-Eclampsia… Postpartum

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By the time most women hit their third trimester of pregnancy, they’ve heard the term preeclampsia get tossed around a time or two. The fact is, some mothers don’t develop this lovely side effect of pregnancy until they’re no longer pregnant. It can be quite alarming for the new mother to suddenly experience extreme swelling or elevated blood pressure. Most women have no idea that preeclampsia can occur outside of pregnancy.

Generally, cases of postpartum preeclampsia develop within the first 48 hours of the woman giving birth. For that reason, most women are still in the hospital or birthing center and being monitoring. Should you not be home when these symptoms — or others such as upper abdominal pain, decreased urinary output or a sudden dramatic weight gain — arise, it’s worth calling your provider over.

3 Postpartum Pyomyoma, And The Taking Of The Womb

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Postpartum pyomyoma is serious and can be life-threatening for the mother who is affected. It occurs as a result of fibroids in the uterus rupturing or hemorrhage occurring, and sometimes as a side effect of sepsis associated with uterine tumors or fibroids.

Women will sometimes develop a fever after childbirth, but those with a history of or known presence of uterine fibroids should be given particular attention to screen for possible postpartum pyomyoma.

While hysteroscopic procedures and medications — including antibiotics — generally clear up these conditions well, some women will unfortunately need a complete hysterectomy to recover from a case of postpartum pyomyoma. This can be a very hard thing for many new mothers — with their hormones ebbing and flowing — to have to accept, and as such, support teams should be put in place to support her throughout.

2 Amniotic Fluid Embolisms Are Claiming Lives

Believe it or not, some women do still die during childbirth, and the amniotic fluid embolism is one such cause of death. Most women have never ever heard of this tragic side effect of birth, and yet they are faced with the end of their life trying to battle it.

On the happiest day of their lives, their amniotic fluid manages to cross into their bloodstream where it travels throughout the body and attacks the patient. Ultimately, these embolisms cause the heart and lungs to collapse and massive bleeding to ensue.

Out of 100,000 births, as many as 8 women will fall prey to this obstetrical emergency, and it accounts for up to 10 percent of maternal deaths in America. This side effect can happen with both vaginal and Cesarean deliveries. It can also happen during abortions and when having an amniocentesis performed.

1 Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

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This condition is rare, but boy is it scary. In most cases, it starts to develop while the mother is still pregnant. Generally, it doesn’t show any symptoms before delivery, because it only starts to gear up into action in the last month of her pregnancy. Once labor hits, it can be taxing on the mother, and at the crux of peripartum cardiomyopathy is a weakened heart muscle.

Still, some women won’t develop this condition until they are several months into the postpartum period and it often leads mothers to develop postpartum depression and/or anxiety as a result of the tremendous stress they are under.

This disease causes the heart muscle to fail in its ability to pump blood throughout the body. Still, this condition is rarely fatal. In most cases — even those with very poor blood ejection rates — the woman goes on to make a full recovery.

Sources: Stanford Children’s Health, Medscape, Everyday Health, Fit Pregnancy

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