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
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
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
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.
Sexual Activity and Contraception