Signs of Serious Problems After You Give Birth

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By Maureen Robb on November 27, 2018

Most women feel discomfort or pain in the weeks after giving birth.

It’s normal to be sore and tired, and to have trouble sleeping.

But some new mothers face life-threatening conditions as a result of childbirth.

How can you tell if your pain signals a serious problem?

Potential Complications

“There are several serious complications that can occur after childbirth,” said Kimberly Simcox, D.O., a Carilion Clinic obstetrician and gynecologist.

“They include infections, postpartum preeclampsia, deep vein thrombosis, or life-threatening blood clots, postpartum hemorrhage and postpartum depression.”

Warning signs of serious problems are:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Extreme pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Pain or swelling in your legs
  • Coughing or gasping for air
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling sad or depressed for longer than 10 days after you gave birth

If you do feel sad, you could have postpartum depression, or PPD, which can last for months unless you get treatment.

PPD can also make it difficult to care for yourself or your baby. 

A mother’s high blood pressure, meanwhile, can cause postpartum preeclampsia—when a woman’s organs, such as her liver or kidneys, aren’t working normally after birth.

Heavy bleeding can signal a postpartum hemorrhage, which can occur up to three months after childbirth.

Infections

“Infections are a common complication, particularly in women who have a Cesarean delivery (C-section),” said Dr. Simcox.

“Common postpartum infections include wound infections (abdominal or perineal), infection of the uterine lining (endometritis), urinary tract infections and infections in the breast (mastitis).”

Warning signs of infection are:

  • Burning or pain when you urinate
  • Needing to urinate often
  • A fever above 100.4 F
  • Redness or pain that persists around your C-section incision
  • A vaginal discharge with a bad odor
  • Extreme pain in your lower stomach
  • Pain in your side or lower back
  • Painful lumps or red marks on your breasts

Endometritis can occur after both a vaginal and C-section delivery. Signs of it are a foul smelling discharge, abdominal pain and fever.

Pain in your breasts may indicate mastitis, a breast infection caused by plugged milk ducts or if you delay or miss breastfeeding and your breasts get engorged with milk.

Postpartum Health

Giving birth is a life-altering experience, and the following weeks are often both joyous and chaotic.

It’s normal to be overwhelmed by all your new responsibilities, and it can be tempting to dismiss any warning signs that something is wrong.

But remember that your postpartum health can affect your future pregnancies, how your family functions and your future risk for chronic disease. It’s important not to ignore any warning signs.  

Also keep in mind that your emotional and physical health will affect how well you can care for your baby.

Don’t hesitate to call 911 or go to the ER if you think your life may be in danger.

Taking care of any complications that may arise will help protect your health and happiness—and that of your family.

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