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Most women are so preoccupied with worrying about their babies after they give birth that they forget that there is the possibility of complication in their body as well. Although complications after a healthy pregnancy and delivery are relatively rare, you should still pay close attention to how your body changes and be aware of any potential warning signs.

One of the most serious postpartum complications is excessive bleeding, or a postpartum hemorrhage, after you give birth. This is typically a problem after long and complicated deliveries, multiple births or in an infected uterus. Usually, it’s a case of your uterus not contracting after the placenta is delivered. If this happens in the hospital, your provider will perform a pelvic exam to find the exact problem, and you can be treated right there, perhaps with a blood transfusion.

Later after the birth, excessive bleeding may be recognized by bleeding that soaks a pad in one hour or less, or passing a blood clot larger that a lemon, followed by bleeding that soaks a pad in one hour or less. Should this type of bleeding happen, call your provider immediately.
Infection can be recognized by a temperature greater than 101°F by mouth, pain or burning when you urinate, foul smelling blood from your vagina and severe pain when you push on your lower abdomen. If you have had a Cesarean birth, infection in your incision could be indicated by redness around the incision and green or yellow drainage from the incision. An infection in your breasts could be indicated by red streaks/areas on the breast that are tender and warm to the touch. You may already be running a fever before these signs appear.

Other Warning Signs

  • A swollen, red, painful area on the leg (especially the calf). This could be inflammation in a blood vessel or a blood clot
  • A severe headache that gets worse when you sit up, and improves when you lie down
  • Inability to pass your urine
  • Racing heartbeat, uncontrollable crying, inability to sleep, feeling of sadness or hopelessness, feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or your baby

If any of these postpartum warning signs occur, notify your care provider immediately.

Uterine infections involve a piece of the placenta that remained in the uterus and caused an infection. This is characterized by flu-like symptoms including a high fever, accelerated heart rate and foul-smelling vaginal discharge. If you have any of these symptoms or if you feel ill, contact your provider for treatment.

You may experience much pain in your perineum, which is the area between your rectum and your vagina. All of those tissues stretched to their capacity during labor, and some might have even torn. If you had an episiotomy, the pain may be even worse. Your body will eventually heal itself, but to ease the pain you might try baths and pain relief to help.

Your vaginal discharge may change after pregnancy. At first, you will experience a heavy bloody discharge in the weeks following birth. This is called lochia, and it is the remains of the placenta as well as the blood from your uterine lining being expelled by your body. The discharge will eventually even out and stop, but the blood may return from time to time until your body is acclimated.

Many women experience hemorrhoids after they give birth. It’s not pretty—but it’s the truth. You might have heard bold women admit that they experience increased constipation after giving birth. This, in addition to all of the strain from carrying around your child and then giving birth, contributes to the hemorrhoids. The use of over-the-counter treatments may alleviate the swelling and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids. Try getting extra fiber and liquid in your diet to regulate your digestion and quell the symptoms.

Another ugly postpartum complication is incontinence, both urinary and fecal. You may notice that it’s much more difficult to hold in your urine, especially while laughing or coughing. This is a natural part of your body’s process of healing after giving childbirth, and Kegel exercises will help the problem.

Hormones that made your hair thick and shiny during pregnancy might cause you to lose hair after you give birth. Don’t freak out—you’re not going bald. All this hair is just the same as the hair your body would have shed during pregnancy if you hadn’t had hormones galore. Eventually, all will even out and you’ll be back to normal (pre-pregnancy hair, unfortunately!).
There are many other changes that occur in the postpartum phase that can really affect your body and be quite discomforting. Most of these changes and complications are normal, and will go away with time or treatment.

Click below to read about related topics.

Introduction
Normal Body Changes
Warning Signs
Sexual Activity & Contraception
Postpartum Depression