The birth of a child is one of the most miraculous and joyous events in a woman’s life. However, the postpartum period can also be challenging as new moms recover from the physical toll of pregnancy and childbirth. In the days and weeks after giving birth, women need to be vigilant about several potential health issues that could arise. Being informed and proactive is key to ensuring both mom and baby stay happy and healthy.
In the United States, about 60,000 women experience some type of postpartum health complication yearly. Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 women nationally. These statistics highlight the need for education, preventive care, and early intervention when problems emerge. Regular postpartum check-ups and open communication with medical providers allow moms to get the support they need during motherhood.
Below, we’ll examine ten common health issues new moms should monitor closely after giving birth. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of these conditions can help women seek timely treatment.
1. Postpartum Depression
Up to 80% of new moms experience some form of postpartum blues after childbirth, commonly involving mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, and trouble sleeping. While usually temporary, postpartum blues can develop into a more severe and prolonged depressive episode in some women. Postpartum depression affects a majority of women and requires active treatment and support.
In some severe cases, postpartum depression may be linked to traumatic birthing experiences, such as birth injuries that can lead to conditions like cerebral palsy in the child. If these birth injuries are suspected of being caused by medical negligence, exploring options for cerebral palsy lawsuits is advised. Engaging with legal professionals can provide support and guidance during an already challenging time.
Furthermore, symptoms of postpartum depression include excessive crying, panic attacks, anger, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, and difficulty bonding with the baby. Any mothers experiencing these emotional issues for longer than two weeks should see a doctor. Counseling, medication, social support, and self-care can help effectively treat postpartum depression.
2. Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is a rare but extremely severe postnatal psychiatric issue requiring urgent medical care. Symptoms usually begin suddenly within the first two weeks after delivery, including hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, insomnia, and manic or bizarre behavior.
Immediate treatment is needed to manage the risks of harm to the mother or baby. Hospitalization, medication, and intensive psychotherapy are used to successfully treat postpartum psychosis.
3. Infection of the Uterus
After the placenta detaches from the uterine lining, the uterus is vulnerable to bacterial infection. Postpartum endometritis occurs in about 1-3% of vaginal deliveries and up to 27% of C-sections. Symptoms include fever, chills, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, and uterine tenderness.
But a course of intravenous antibiotics can effectively treat most uterine infections. If left untreated, a uterine infection can become life-threatening.
4. Urinary Incontinence
Many new moms experience urinary incontinence after childbirth due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Acts like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting can cause urine leakage.
Regular pelvic floor exercises, called Kegels, help strengthen the muscles and reduce incontinence. You may need physical therapy, vaginal cones, electrical stimulation, or surgery to repair the pelvic floor for persistent or severe cases.
5. Breastfeeding Difficulties
Most new moms want to breastfeed but may encounter challenges like sore nipples, engorged breasts, mastitis (breast tissue infection), or low milk supply. A lactation consultant can provide hands-on assistance and advice to improve breastfeeding techniques.
Nipple creams, ice packs, gentle massaging, warm showers, and modification of nursing positions can help relieve nipple soreness. Plugged ducts may require gentle massage, while antibiotics can treat mastitis.
Some babies have difficulty latching or getting enough milk, which could require pumping or supplementing with formula. With patience and professional support, most breastfeeding problems can be overcome.
Extreme fatigue and exhaustion are nearly universal in new moms, especially in the first few weeks postpartum. The physical toll of labor and delivery, sleep deprivation from the baby’s feeding schedule, hormone changes, blood loss, and emotional adjustments all contribute to fatigue. For this, rest and sleep are essential for healing.
New moms should nap whenever possible, go to bed early, and ask for help with household chores. Gentle exercise like walking can also boost energy. Accepting fatigue as normal will help new moms be patient with themselves.
The strain of labor often causes swollen, painful hemorrhoids after birth. Straining during bowel movements can exacerbate discomfort. Hemorrhoids usually subside themselves but can be treated with over-the-counter creams, medicated wipes, warm baths, ice packs, and stool softeners.
For severe cases, medical procedures may be required to remove hemorrhoids. New moms should drink plenty of fluids, eat high-fiber foods, avoid straining during BMs, and keep the area clean to prevent hemorrhoids from worsening.
Many new moms deal with constipation, another side effect of labor. Contributing factors include dehydration, iron supplements, limited fiber intake, and fear of exacerbating hemorrhoids.
Over-the-counter stool softeners, laxatives, fiber supplements, and hydration can relieve constipation. Also, ensure to walk and do gentle exercises to stimulate bowel function. If constipation persists over three days, calling a doctor is recommended as it will offer some relief.
9. Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss is upsetting but normal as estrogen levels drop after pregnancy. Losing large amounts of hair 2-5 months postpartum signals the end of the resting phase. As hair shifts into the shedding phase, new growth begins. While startling, postpartum hair loss eventually slows and resolves.
Using a gentle shampoo, massaging the scalp, limiting heat styling, and easing up on hair dye can help minimize shedding. A balanced diet with protein and iron also supports healthy hair.
10. Joint Pain
During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin softens ligaments and tendons to aid delivery. This effect can linger postpartum, causing instability and pain in the hips, pelvis, and lower back.
Chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, warm baths, and acetaminophen provide relief. While joint pain usually diminishes over the first few months as relaxin levels decrease and abdominal muscles regain strength, a support belt can also stabilize the joints.
While rewarding, the postpartum period poses many physical and emotional challenges for new mothers. Being vigilant about potential health issues allows women to seek timely treatment when problems arise after giving birth. New moms can overcome most postpartum health complications with proper medical care, self-care, and social support. Prioritizing rest and listening to one’s body ensures timely recovery. Most importantly, staying informed enables new mothers to cherish every moment with their precious new babies.