Many postpartum illnesses and even deaths up to one year after birth can be attributed to a lack of awareness and subsequent failure to seek treatment. Many new mothers are so intensely focused on their newborn that they miss crucial symptoms in their own physical and mental health.
Pregnant women typically research all about the ins and outs of what to expect before and during labor and delivery, but very few understand the different types of physical and mental symptoms a woman might encounter postpartum.
To understand the risks and take care of yourself, here are some of the most common postpartum complications that new mothers can experience in the first year following their child’s birth.
Postpartum Complications and Side-Effects
Physical problems related to hormonal fluctuations and other physiological changes can affect a mother in a variety of ways. Some of the most common health issues new mothers develop are heart disease and other cardiovascular complications such as blockages, high blood pressure and stroke.
Women who already have a history of heart problems, heart disease, or high blood pressure are at a higher risk of experiencing life-threatening postpartum complications.
When to Seek Emergency Care
Doctors know that there are certain risks associated with being a new mom and they will have a better chance of intervening and preventing a life-threatening complication, the sooner you seek treatment.
You may not know when a problem merits medical attention, but there are certain physical symptoms that should never be ignored. If you experience any of the following after having a baby, the best thing to do is to call 911 and get assessed at your local emergency room :
- Redness and swelling in the leg(s) that is warm to the touch. It could also be sore or painful.
- Bleeding through more than one pad per hour and experiencing blood clots that are around the size of an egg or bigger.
- Surgical incisions that do not heal, are red and bleeding or oozing pus.
- Headaches that do not go away or cause visual changes.
- High fever (over 104 Fahrenheit or 38 Celsius).
- Seizures, difficulty breathing, dizziness or fainting.
- Depressed, violent thoughts about hurting yourself or harming your baby.
The Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression
Perhaps the most well-known complication is postpartum depression. Frequently called “the baby blues,” this type of depression can appear a few days after giving birth or even a few months later.
Due to hormonal imbalances, the “baby blues” is actually a common occurrence for many women, and it typically resolves in less than two weeks post-delivery. The difference between this experience and postpartum depression is the latter’s possible persistence for months or even well over a year, and the feelings are much more intense.
Women who become depressed after giving birth typically feel a sense of guilt, shame and worthlessness that persists day after day. Some other warning signs to look out for include the following:
- Always feeling sad or down.
- A deep-rooted fatigue that is not attributed to new-baby sleep loss.
- A loss of interest in or excitement about hobbies or activities.
- Feeling guilty, ashamed or miserable about becoming a new mother or one’s ability to be a parent.
- Weight loss or gain without reasonable explanation.
- Changes in appetite.
- Little interest in your baby and a limited desire to care for him or her.
Postpartum Care Tips
Every woman should understand the importance of prolonged care post-delivery. One follow-up is generally not enough to catch additional symptoms, so checking in with your OB/GYN and primary care physician is the best way to catch and prevent many common health complications.
Be sure to rely on others during this time as well; many moms take on the brunt of responsibility when caring for a newborn, but there is no shame in allowing family and friends to help you adjust, catch up on rest and stay healthy. After all, the best thing you can do for your baby is to make sure that your own well-being is being looked after.
If you experience any suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor right away. Confide in your partner or other close relatives, and understand that every woman’s experience is different. Don’t compare yourself to others’ postpartum stories, and focus more on ensuring your own physical and mental well-being.