Women Should Watch Out For These Problems After Pregnancy

You Might Have To Retrain Your Body To Poop Normally Although less common than urinary incontinence, some women also experience a loss of pelvic and bowel… Aisha Abdullah - January 28, 2023

Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most mentally and physically overwhelming and life-changing things you’ll ever experience. Many postpartum (the period right after childbirth) symptoms are a normal part of your body’s recovery after pregnancy and adjustment to your new reality. Bleeding, fatigue, headaches, soreness, and mood swings are all common after giving birth and are usually no cause for concern. But there are some symptoms you need to be on the lookout for that could be a sign of serious complications.

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Postpartum Depression Makes It Hard To Bond With Your New Baby

Having a baby is physically and emotionally taxing. Mood swings, crying spells, and just feeling overwhelmed are expected. But extreme feelings of hopelessness or emptiness are not expected and could be a sign of postpartum depression. Many women have “baby blues” right after their baby is born. Instead of feeling overjoyed to meet their little one, they feel deflated and sad. This is because your hormones are out of wack after childbirth, severely affecting your mood and ability to interact with the world.

If your baby blues make it difficult to function or connect with your baby, or if they don’t go away after a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor. Symptoms that you should watch for include feeling hopeless, restless, or depressed, crying frequently, thinking about hurting yourself or your baby, loss of appetite, and difficulty focusing. Postpartum depression affects more than 10 percent of new mothers, and it’s not a reason to feel ashamed.

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Postpartum Psychosis is Rare but Can Be Life-Threatening

Welcoming your new baby should be joyful if challenging. But, for around 1 in 1,000 new mothers, a mental illness called postpartum psychosis can get in the way of that joy. Like postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis is triggered by the sudden drop in hormone levels immediately after delivery. Symptoms usually appear without warning between two weeks to a full year after giving birth.

Mothers with postpartum psychosis experience hallucinations, paranoia, extreme mood swings, severe insomnia, and an inability to connect with their newborns. Speak to your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. If left untreated, postpartum psychosis can turn deadly. Women with a history of bipolar disorder or psychotic episodes are at higher risk for postpartum psychosis, but the condition can affect anyone.

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A Minor Infection Can Turn into Deadly Sepsis

When you have an infection, your immune system kicks into gear to keep you healthy. Sometimes, this immune response can go into overdrive and start hurting the cells it’s supposed to protect. Sepsis occurs when your immune system has an extreme response to an infection. That response can cause organ damage or even death. Sepsis is a serious condition that can develop during and immediately after childbirth. Even a minor infection can trigger sepsis, making it extra important to prevent infections and quickly treat any that arise.

Pregnancy and childbirth make you particularly vulnerable to infections and, by extension, sepsis. Signs of sepsis include a drop in blood pressure, shortness of breath, fever, chills, confusion or disorientation, and loss of consciousness. If sepsis is not treated, it can lead to septic shock, sometimes called blood poisoning. Septic shock is responsible for as much as 16 percent of all maternal deaths worldwide.

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High Blood Pressure Is a Possible Sign of Preeclampsia

No one knows exactly what causes preeclampsia, despite it being one of the most common pregnancy complications. The condition, which affects around 9 percent of pregnancies, causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It usually occurs during pregnancy but can also happen after delivery. Symptoms of preeclampsia include shortness of breath, severe headache, pain on the right side of your abdomen, swollen hands and feet, nausea, lightheadedness, and blurred vision.

Contact a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms from around week 20 of your pregnancy to six weeks after delivery. Without treatment, preeclampsia causes severe complications, including stroke, organ failure, and even death. Women who are overweight, have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes, those over the age of 40, and mothers having multiples are at a higher risk for preeclampsia.

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Take Care When Breastfeeding To Avoid Mastitis

Breastfeeding provides your baby with vital nutrients and immune protection. But, some breastfeeding mothers may experience mastitis or breast inflammation (swelling). Mastitis is caused by milk building up in the breast or blocked milk ducts. The condition causes pain, tenderness, and red streaks on the breasts, as well as flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, bacteria can grow in the clogged milk, leading to an infection or abscess in the breast. Many things can increase mastitis risk, including improper breastfeeding technique, wearing restrictive clothing, smoking, cracked or sore nipples, and stress.

You may have mastitis if you notice patches of warm, red skin on the breast, feel a hard lump that is tender to the touch, or have a low-grade fever. Fortunately, you can treat mastitis at home by continuing to breastfeed or pump the affected breast until drained and staying hydrated. Massage, heating pads, and anti-inflammatory medication may help relieve symptoms. Contact your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or get worse.

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Strokes Are a Very Rare but Real Risk of Childbirth

Strokes happen when burst or blocked blood vessels prevent blood from traveling to the brain. Because blood carries oxygen to the brain, even a temporary stop in blood flow can cause permanent brain damage or death. Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to blood clots, which, in turn, makes you more at risk for a stroke. Having a C-section increases stroke risk, as does having high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or diabetes while pregnant.

Strokes require immediate medical attention. The hallmark symptoms of strokes after birth are numbness or weakness on one side of the face, weakness in one arm, and slurred speech. Other symptoms may include difficulty walking, dizziness, blurred vision, and a sudden headache. Keep an eye out for these signs throughout your pregnancy and shortly after delivery.

Source: Science Photo Library

Pregnancy Causes Blood Clots That Can Travel to Your Lungs

Blood clots are more common during pregnancy and can lead to serious complications. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that develops in deep veins, usually in the leg, as opposed to shallow veins just under the skin. These blood clots cause throbbing, persistent pain, swelling, and warmth or tenderness in the affected leg. Sometimes, deep vein blood clots can travel from the leg to the lungs, causing a potentially fatal condition called pulmonary embolism.

People with a pulmonary embolism may think they’re having a heart attack because it causes chest pain, shortness of breath, and a fast or irregular heartbeat. Women are up to 20 times more likely to experience deep vein thrombosis in the six weeks after delivery. You are at higher risk of developing the condition if you have a personal or family history, have a C-section, smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, have heavier than usual bleeding after giving birth, or are if you were on strict bed rest while pregnant.

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Pregnancy Hormones May Cause Painful Gallstones

Your hormones skyrocket during pregnancy, affecting almost all of your organs. One organ that is particularly sensitive to pregnancy hormones is the gallbladder, which makes bile to help digest food. Progesterone and estrogen affect bile production and the composition of bile that is produced during pregnancy. This can cause bile to harden and form gallstones in the gallbladder.

Gallstones cause severe stomach and back pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. Women who are over 40, are Hispanic or Native American, have diabetes, are overweight or have lost weight quickly, or have a history of gallstones are at risk of developing gallstones late in pregnancy or after delivery. Gallstones can be prevented by avoiding foods high in fat and cholesterol, eating a high-fiber diet, being active, and avoiding rapid weight changes.

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Blurry Vision? You May Need To Be Checked For HELLP Syndrome

If your vision changes suddenly and without any explanation while pregnant, you may have HELLP syndrome. This rare condition occurs in less than 1 percent of pregnancies and affects the red blood cells, the liver, and platelets (the cells that help blood clot). HELLP syndrome usually causes high blood pressure, unexplained changes in vision, and pain on the right upper side of the stomach, chest, or shoulder. Other symptoms include fatigue, swollen face and hands, excessive bleeding after injury, and headache. HELLP syndrome can cause seizures, liver damage, and stroke in severe cases. Most cases develop in the third trimester, but the condition can also occur shortly after childbirth.

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Heavy Bleeding Over a Week After Birth Could Be Hemorrhage

It’s perfectly normal to experience some vaginal bleeding after delivery. Most women bleed for 4 to 12 weeks after vaginal birth. This bleeding starts heavy for the first few days before becoming lighter. In around 1 to 5 percent of births, the heavy bleeding doesn’t stop. Postpartum hemorrhage causes severe blood loss and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Without treatment, postpartum hemorrhage can lead to shock—when organs don’t receive enough blood—or even death. Postpartum hemorrhage is most common immediately after delivery but can begin up to 12 weeks later. Women with placenta or uterus abnormalities are at a higher risk of hemorrhage, as are women who are Asian or Hispanic and those with high blood pressure or preeclampsia.

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Stomach Pain and Fever Are Signs of a Uterus Infection

Some bacteria live in the lining of the uterus. These bacteria are usually harmless but can cause infections if the uterus is injured during childbirth. The most common sign of these infections, called endometritis, is stomach pain, tenderness, swelling, and abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge. Women with endometritis may also have a fever, body aches, and loss of appetite. In severe cases, women may experience severe abdominal or pelvic pain and a fast heartbeat.

Like most bacterial infections, endometritis can be treated with antibiotics. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can cause serious complications, including sepsis. Doctors advise women to watch for early signs of infections in the days and weeks after giving birth. Women who have a C-section or a long birth are at higher risk.

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Difficult or Painful Peeing Usually Means You Have a UTI

Most women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in their life. UTIs are especially common after pregnancy because the muscles that move urine through and out of the body can be overworked or damaged during childbirth, putting them at risk of a bacterial infection. The urethra is part of the urinary tract that releases urine from the body and is the most prone to bacterial infection.

UTI symptoms include pelvic and lower abdominal pain, difficulty or pain while peeing, an urgent need to pee, and abnormal urine color or odor. You can prevent UTIs by keeping the genitals clean, dry, and free of perfumes, staying hydrated, and wearing breathable underwear. Drinking cranberry juice has also been shown to stop UTI-causing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining.

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C-section Puts You at Risk of a Surgical Site Infection

You may be at higher risk for infection if you have a C-section. Incision or surgery site, infections occur in around 15 percent of women who have C-sections. Most develop within a week of the procedure. Signs of an incision infection include redness, pain, or green or yellowish discharge from the surgery scar and a high fever. Women who have diabetes and those who have other infections during delivery are more likely to develop incision site infections.

Keeping the surgery site and surrounding area clean and dry is the best way to prevent these infections. You should contact your doctor immediately if you think the surgical site might be infected. Incision infections can be treated relatively easily with antibiotics. Without treatment, the wound will not heal properly, and you may be at risk of a more severe infection or sepsis.

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Peeing Yourself After Childbirth Is Normal—But Not Indefinitely

Accidentally peeing yourself is something many expecting and new moms have experienced. That’s because, as the uterus expands during pregnancy, it pressures the bladder and pelvic floor muscles that control when urine is released. That pressure can cause the muscles to weaken and eventually lead to incontinence, a condition causing the accidental release of urine out of the bladder. This leaking may happen for no apparent reason or after you sneeze, cough, laugh, or do a physically demanding activity.

Incontinence is common and usually a normal part of pregnancy and early postpartum. Around a third of new mothers experience the condition. However, if incontinence persists for more than six weeks after delivery, it may be a sign of another health issue. Getting help from a doctor at the first sign of a problem can prevent long-term incontinence.

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You Might Have To Retrain Your Body To Poop Normally

Although less common than urinary incontinence, some women also experience a loss of pelvic and bowel muscle control after childbirth. This can lead to fecal or bowel incontinence or involuntary bowel movements. This condition may be caused by damage to the muscles that control when poop is released. The damage may occur during pregnancy or delivery, or both.

Bowel incontinence can also result from chronic constipation or hemorrhoids, which are common illnesses immediately after giving birth. Fortunately, this type of incontinence can be treated by “retraining” the body to have regular bowel movements with diet changes, kegel exercises, and medications. Maintaining regular bowel movements and not ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom reduces the risk of bowel incontinence, as does avoiding constipation with a high-fiber diet.

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Call a Doctor If You See Blood or Mucus in Your Poop

Like incontinence, constipation (infrequent bowel movements) is an expected side effect of pregnancy and childbirth. Many women experience difficulty going to the bathroom immediately after giving birth. This may be due to muscle damage during delivery, sudden hormonal changes that affect bowel movements, or post-childbirth pain that makes going to the bathroom uncomfortable. Some pain medications and C-sections can cause constipation, as can iron supplements that treat pregnancy anemia.

Staying hydrated, eating a high-fiber diet, and staying as active as possible can help prevent and relieve constipation symptoms. Constipation typically resolves after a few days. Stool softeners or a mild laxative can treat symptoms if other methods don’t work. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have blood or mucus in your poop, if you experience severe abdominal or anal pain, or if you are unable to poop for three days.

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Post-Pregnancy Constipation Can Give Your Hemorrhoids

Constipation after childbirth can cause more than just discomfort; it can also lead to hemorrhoids, or swollen veins in the anus and rectum (the lower part of the intestines). Hemorrhoids are usually related to constipation and straining to go to the bathroom. However, they can also result from pressure from an expanding uterus causing veins in your legs and rectum to swell.

Hemorrhoids usually appear as small lumps inside or around the rectum. The best way to avoid hemorrhoids after childbirth is to avoid constipation by drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy, fiber-rich diet, and exercising regularly. If you become constipated, get treatment early to prevent hemorrhoids. Contact your doctor if you have severe pain, bleeding, or hemorrhoids that becomes hard.

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Don’t Ignore Swollen Hands and Feet—Your Heart Will Thank You

The body goes through tremendous stress during pregnancy and childbirth that can affect all organs. Strain on the heart can cause an extremely rare kind of heart failure called postpartum cardiomyopathy. The condition occurs when muscles in the heart are weakened, and the heart’s chambers are enlarged in the weeks and months following childbirth. This makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood and deliver oxygen to the body’s organs.

The cause of postpartum cardiomyopathy is more common in new mothers who are over age 30, have a history of heart issues or high blood pressure, are of African descent, or have multiples. Symptoms are similar to other types of heart failure and include shortness of breath when resting, swollen limbs, elevated heartbeat, fatigue, and swollen veins on the neck. Good nutrition during and after pregnancy, regular exercise, and avoiding alcoholic drinks and smoking may help reduce the risk of postpartum cardiomyopathy.

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Sudden Weight Changes Could Be a Sign of Thyroid Problems

If you notice a sudden, unexplained change in your weight after pregnancy, postpartum thyroiditis, or swelling of the thyroid gland. The first phase of this condition, hyperthyroidism, usually occurs within one to six months of delivery. Hyperthyroidism is the production of too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms are often not noticeable but may include unexplained weight loss, increased heart rate, hair loss, and anxiety.

The second, more severe phase is hypothyroidism, which usually occurs four to eight months after delivery. Hypothyroidism means the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Signs of this phase are unexplained weight gain, fatigue, body aches, constipation, and depression. Hypothyroidism can usually be treated successfully with hormone replacement therapy.

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You May Struggle To Regain Your Sex Drive After Delivery

After childbirth, many women feel far too exhausted and overwhelmed to even think about sex—for a good reason. Most doctors recommend avoiding sex for four to eight weeks after giving birth while their bodies are still recovering. There is no concrete timeline for when your libido will return after delivery. Hormonal changes, fatigue, and sleep deprivation can dampen your desire for sex. That’s very normal, and some new moms may not recover their sex drive for many months or even longer if breastfeeding. However, your sex drive should return eventually. If you are concerned about a lack of sex drive or low libido combined with depression or pain during sex, consider speaking to your doctor. These could be symptoms of other health issues that need to be treated.

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Epidurals Are Great for Pain but Can Cause Debilitating Headaches

An epidural is an injection in the space around the spinal cord that prevents you from feeling pain below your waist. The procedure is a common, effective way to handle pain during childbirth. But, like all medical procedures, it is not without risks. One side effect of epidurals is a severe headache lasting up to a week. These epidural headaches occur when the epidural needle is injected too far, causing leakage of spinal fluid. Epidural headaches, also called post-dural-puncture headaches, are usually treated with over-the-counter pain medicine and rest. Symptoms usually resolve within a week or two. Talk to a doctor if the headache persists beyond that point or worsens.

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Retained Placenta Can Cause Bleeding, Cramps, and Fever

After a baby is delivered, the placenta is expelled from the body, usually within minutes of birth. Sometimes, part of the placenta remains behind, putting the new mother at risk for postpartum hemorrhage (heavy bleeding after childbirth). A retained placenta is usually spotted by the doctor delivering the baby. Still, it can be missed, especially if the placenta is not delivered intact. Signs of a retained placenta appear within one to ten days after birth. They include fever, heavy vaginal bleeding, clots in the blood, and stomach cramps. If the retained placenta is discovered after delivery, it will need to be removed surgically.

Source: CDC

The Bacteria That Causes Strep Can Make You Sick After Childbirth

Group A streptococcus, or strep A, is a common bacteria that causes a host of infections, including strep throat. These bacteria live in the throat, nose, and skin and spread easily. Common procedures during pregnancy and delivery can make you vulnerable to a strep A infection, including vaginal exams with forceps, catheter insertion, and stitches to repair tears.

In addition, Strep A can be spread from mother to baby, making it especially important to prevent the infections from happening in the first place and treat those that do arise early. Signs of a strep A infection include fever, chills, pain, fatigue, and feeling dehydrated. Strep A infection can develop into a more serious infection or sepsis if left untreated. Thoroughly and regularly washing hands with soap and water can reduce the spread of Strep A bacteria.

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Vaginal Odor and Discharge Could Be Bacterial Vaginosis

A host of bacteria live in and around the vagina. If something happens to disrupt this bacterial population, it can lead to bacterial vaginosis, which is the overgrowth of certain “bad” bacteria in the vagina. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and after delivery can increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. Symptoms of the condition include abnormally colored and foul-smelling vaginal discharge, vaginal soreness or itching, and a burning sensation when peeing. Untreated bacterial vaginosis can cause uterine or bladder infections if the bacteria in the vagina travel to the uterus or urinary tract. Talk to your doctor right away if you think you might have bacterial vaginosis. The condition can be treated with a course of antibiotics.


Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

Very Well Family – Fever and Other Postpartum Warning Signs

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – 3 Conditions to Watch for After childbirth

Healthline – Common Postpartum Complications, Plus When to See a Doctor

Mayo Clinic – Postpartum complications: What you need to know

March of Dimes – Warning signs of health problems after birth