Postpartum: Health Complications, Causes, and Treatment
The postpartum period is a very challenging time for many mothers. Labor and delivery can bring about fatigue and a plethora of aches and pains. You also spend a lot of time taking care of your baby, and you may hardly get enough sleep. The daily feeding, rocking, caring, and soothing that your baby needs may make it hard for you to care for yourself.
The few weeks after birth are usually accompanied by pains and discomfort, but it doesn't have to be a severe or chronic experience. However, in cases where the complications last for too long and interfere with your healing process, it may be time to seek help.
As you care for your baby, always remember that your little one needs you more than anything or anyone now. So, you should take time to care for your body by speaking with your doctor as soon as possible if any issue arises.
Many things could go wrong during the postpartum period, and some health complications may include:
1. Excessive Bleeding
Bleeding after childbirth is a normal thing that many women experience, and most women bleed between two to six weeks. It becomes a problem beyond this or if it’s in excess.
Typical bleeding begins immediately after vaginal or cesarean section childbirth, and it reduces each day before it finally stops. If this isn't the case and you start to get blood in large clots, or the blood flow suddenly begins to get heavier, something else may be responsible.
Stress, for example, may cause a temporary increase in blood flow, but you can correct this by resting and slowing down. In more severe cases, the uterus may fail to contract, or a placenta may have been retained. This may lead to medical attention or surgical operation depending on the severity.
There's a higher risk of getting infected while giving birth as the open wounds and stitches during vaginal birth may be infected. If you give birth via a cesarean section, the incision area will also get stitches. Ideally, the wound should heal with time, but if it doesn't heal and the pain increases, it may have been infected, and you may have to see your doctor.
To prevent the stitch from being infected, you can use a squirt bottle to wipe the area with warm water after using the restroom. Note: wipe from front to back to prevent infection.
Other infections that you may experience after birth may include kidney, vaginal and urinary infections. You can also get an infection during childbirth when you notice signs like redness, discharge, increasing pain, fever, and painful urination.
Regardless of the type of infection, treating it early is very important. The first phase of treatment requires antibiotics to combat it at its beginning stage. However, more treatments may follow if the infection becomes severe; you may even be hospitalized. So, seeing your doctor immediately is vital when you see signs of infection.
3. Incontinence or Constipation
This is a very common condition, but it can make you feel uncomfortable. You can control urinary or fecal continence by engaging in exercises like Kegels, but you may need medical intervention in severe cases.
Fecal incontinence occurs as a result of injury or weakened muscles during birth. You can improve it by wearing menstrual underwear or pads. You may either find it difficult to hold in feces or find it hard to pass it out.
You can also improve this by staying hydrated, consuming a healthy diet, or using pads or creams to treat it. You may have to see your doctor if the condition doesn't improve in a few weeks following your baby's birth or if the home treatment doesn't work.
4. Breast Pain
You can feel pain in your breast during the postpartum period, whether you breastfeed or not.
As your breasts produce milk, you may experience swollen breasts and discomfort for the first three to five days after birth. The pain from engorgement can be challenging if you aren't breastfeeding.
Taking warm showers and hot or cold compresses can help ease the pains. OTC pain relief medications can also help.
You may also experience breast pain or nipple pain when breastfeeding, although this shouldn't last for a long time. If it does or you experience cracking and bleeding on your nipples, consider a lactation specialist to help breastfeed less painfully.
During the early days that follow delivery, milk production will occur, and you may be at risk of mastitis whether you breastfeed or not. Mastitis can be painful, but you can treat it with antibiotics. However, you should see your doctor when you have flu-like symptoms, fever, redness of the breast, or a warm or hot feeling on the breast.
5. Postpartum Depression
The weeks following birth are usually filled with a series of feelings, and baby blues is one of those emotions.
Some of these symptoms are normal when moderate, but it may be cause for concern when it keeps getting worse and lasts for more than a few weeks. When it begins to affect how you care for your baby, it may be a sign of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can be challenging to deal with, but you can treat it. The earlier you address it, the better you get as soon as possible. Focus less on feelings of shame and consult with your doctor for help. Be as honest as possible and visit your doctor to get help immediately.
6. Other Postpartum Issues
Other postpartum complications that may affect your health and safety after delivery include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Red or swollen legs warm to touch
- Headache with blurred vision
- Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
Always see your doctor as soon as you observe any of these symptoms. Don’t wait for your postpartum appointment before bringing up any issue. A timely visit to your doctor for any concerns will help you focus on taking care of your baby and yourself.
Risk Factors for Postpartum Complications
Generally, only a few people die from postpartum complications, and this is usually due to more severe cases. Women with obesity, cardiac arrest, and high blood pressure are at higher risk of dying from postpartum complications. If you have any of these conditions as a mother, you should strictly monitor your health and follow your doctor's advice.
Some complications can’t be foreseen and prevented because things do happen without warning. However, that isn’t usually the case. Most issues can be tackled at the beginning of pregnancy or at the first sign. Speak up, even when in doubt, to give you (and your child) the best chance of recovering without medical intervention. It’s always best to be on the safe side.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Nadia Rumbolt
Nadia Rumbolt is a mom of many trades, including creative writing, blogging, van life, minimalism, veganism, the beach, nature, and the occult.