Postpartum complications – What you need to know
The postpartum phase is supposed to be a wonderful time for both mother and baby.
Unfortunately things don’t always run as smoothly as this for some new moms.
For the odd few new moms there can be postpartum complications that can arise and cause a few bumps along the way.
Lets take a look at some of these postpartum complications that you need to be aware of.
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#1 Postpartum Hemorrhage
It’s standard practice that after you give birth there will be some bleeding. This is completely normal and to be expected.
In some instances there is cause for concern as the bleeding may not be able to stop or slow down.
This is referred to as a postpartum hemorrhage.
A hemorrhage will cause your blood pressure to drop and you to faint due to extreme blood loss.
Its important that you don’t confuse postpartum bleeding with a haemorrhage.
Regular postpartum bleeding will become lighter in color as the days pass by but a hemorrhage will stay very red in color and will not become any less.
There are 3 most common reasons for the bleeding and they are:
- The placenta has not fully come out after you have delivered your baby.
- You could have a tear in your uterus
- Your uterus may not have contracted properly.
Your chances of a postpartum hemorrhage can be increased for the following reasons:
- If you have had multiple births
- If you needed medication to induce labor
- If you delivered a very large baby
- If you needed anaesthetic at any point during labor
How to deal with a hemorrhage
Depending on the cause of the hemorrhage, you may need further massages to make sure your uterus is contracting properly or you may need medication to expel the reminants of the placenta.
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#2 Stretch marks
Stretch marks aren’t very nice to look at but they certainly aren’t harmful by any means.
I wouldn’t be too worried about stretch marks as only a lucky few people can get away without any stretch marks at all.
Stretch marks are caused when skin is overstretched too rapidly.
During pregnancy you may not be able to notice the stretch marks too much but it usually becomes more apparent after you have given birth.
Your chances are increased if:
- You have a family history of stretch marks
- If you had a baby very young
- If you gain or loose weight too fast
How to deal with stretch marks
Some creams and oils are said to be effective and can get rid of stretch marks but personally speaking I’m not convinced.
There are other creams and oils on the market that are supposed to help the stretch marks fade. Oils like this are probably more likely to be accurate.
Mastitis occurs when you get an infection. It can either come from your babies mouth or from a cracked nipple.
It can be incredibly painful and will present itself as the flu.
You will usually feel a tenderness and perhaps a lump in your breast when you have mastitis.
You will usually only get mastitis when you are breastfeeding but it is not impossible to get it without breastfeeding.
How to deal with mastitis
To treat this you will need lots of rest and fluids and you should continue to breastfeed during this time as breastfeeding helps to clear the infection.
If you are still not experiencing any relief after this then you may need further treatment from your doctor.
Constipation can actually start during the last few days of pregnancy especially if your baby is putting pressure on your bowels making it difficult for them to empty.
Believe it or not a lot of women experience postpartum constipation after delivery. This can be for different reasons but the main one is usually fear.
After you have just given birth and after all the pushing it can be quite nerve wracking to have to think about pushing all over again.
This can cause some women to feel blocked and unable to go to the toilet.
Another reason for constipation could be because your intestines are fully empty. If you had a particularly long labor this could be a very viable explanation for you.
How to deal with constipation
It should clear up on its own after a short period of time. If you are still having difficulty going to the toilet then you need to increase your intake of fibre.
That should help to relieve you but if you still don’t experience any relief then you must consult your doctor straight away as it could be something more serious.
#5 Breast Engorgement
Breast engorgement happens twice. Once when your breasts fill up with milk to feed your baby and then again when you decide to stop breastfeeding.
I’m not sure if its really fair to class this as a postpartum complication but its probably still a good idea to mention it.
When your breasts fill up with milk they become very big and heavy. They may even be sensitive to the touch.
This should only last about a week or so, after that things should start to calm down a bit and it shouldn’t be so swollen.
There’s not a whole lot you can do to avoid this but there are things you can do to make it easier.
How to deal with breast engorgement
Breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. If you are still experiencing too much pain then you can try pumping and dumping the excess milk.
Eventually your milk supply should even out and you shouldn’t experience anymore pain.
You can also try a warm cloth on your breasts to ease the tightness.
#6 Postpartum depression
It’s a known fact that some women suffer from postpartum depression. It tends to kick in right after a woman has given birth.
It can happen for a number of reasons and there is no one simple fix for this.
Some woman become overly concerned for the safety of their baby. Some find having a new baby too overwhelming and some just don’t feel right about things.
There is no set way to feel when you are experiencing postpartum depression. Woman can have it to many different degrees.
Some women get back in control after a few short weeks and for others it takes much much longer.
How to deal with postpartum depression
You may need counselling to help you through this time.
You may need to think about a change in diet
Your doctor may recommend some medication.
Whichever option it is, you must never keep your feelings to yourself.
#7 Hair loss
Postpartum hairloss is something that many people would rather not discuss. I’m not sure why.
It’s a postpartum complication which many many many women have to go through.
During pregnancy often your hair will get an extra dose of happiness. You might find that your hair gets some extra thickness and some extra bounce.
After pregnancy for the unlucky few they start to shed that extra hair in excess.
The full head of hair that they once had begins to get thinner and thinner. It can be quite an unpleasant experience for some women.
The reason for this is because whilst you are pregnant your hair stops in its cycle of shedding and growing.
Whilst it is doing this your hair will no longer shed but you may only see it growing due to your excess hormones.
After you deliver the baby the cycle of growth and shedding starts again. The hair that you should have lost while you were pregnant will now fall out.
This might make it seem as though you are losing extra hair, technically you are not.
There are a small percentage of women who will suffer from an extreme case of hair loss and lose even more hair than expected.
How to deal with hair loss
Be kind to your hair, treat it gently and give it extra love. Stay away from any harsh practices such as pulling your hair into a tight ponytail etc.
Eat a well balanced diet.
Postpartum headaches can happen for a number of reasons. For the most part it is down to the change in hormone levels.
In some instances it could be a sign that you need to take better care of your health.
It’s too easy to get caught up in the cycle of having no sleep whilst trying to normalise life.
You can’t afford to play with your mental health because it will only affect your body in another way.
Those first six weeks after you give birth are called the postpartum period for a reason. Its a time for you to adjust to your new baby and a new lifestyle.
If you don’t use this time wisely you will be more prone to headaches and all sorts of things.
If you are experiencing extreme headaches, you may want to run it by a doctor as it could also be a sign of something more serious such as preeclampsia.
How to deal with headaches
Get lots of rest and admit that you can’t do it all.
Give yourself permission to not do something and rest. Make sure you are eating well and taking in enough fluids as well.
During the postpartum period you will lose a lot of blood so make sure that you are replacing those fluids with water as this can cause headaches.
If in doubt call your doctor.
#9 Contracting uterus
After birth your uterus must contract in order for it to shrink back to size. Whilst you are pregnant your uterus will expand to the size of a watermelon.
After you deliver your baby it has to shrink back down the the size of an apple.
In order to do this it has to contract. Some women like to refer to this as after birth pains.
The reason for this is because it feels similar to mild contractions.
If your uterus does not shrink back to size it will cause you some serious problems in the future.
For starters your postpartum bleeding will not be able to stop which could cause a hemorrhage.
Secondly you will be left with a large stomach area which will not have gone down after birth (This is one postpartum complication you really don’t want to experience).
How to deal with a contracting uterus
Breastfeeding encourages your uterus to shrink.
You can also try massaging your stomach or wearing a belly wrap. Some women find wearing a belly wrap like this one helps.
Postpartum preeclampsia although a rare condition is caused when you have high blood pressure and there is protein in your urine.
Other symptoms of preeclampsia are severe headaches and a decrease in urination.
If you suspect that you may have preeclampsia then you need to call your doctor immediately.
How to deal with preeclampsia
You must notify your doctor.
Most of these postpartum complications are easily treatable with the exception of postpartum preeclampsia and postpartum depression which you must see your doctor about straight away.
The postpartum phase is a very delicate time and whilst there is a lot of information to learn about, it is also a special time for you and your baby to bond.
Use your time wisely.
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