4 Postpartum complications you must monitor
Your body doesn’t recover immediately after childbirth: it takes time to get back in shape. The first six weeks after birth are crucial to getting the healing journey started. Even if your focus is on taking care of your baby, there is ample need to make sure that your body is healing correctly.
Post-delivery complications could arise at any time after birth. The complications could occur a few weeks after delivery, or even within the first year after you have given birth.
Women who have delivered a baby, need to keep an eye on the changes happening in their body. These changes could not only be physiological but psychological also.
Postpartum complications: what you need to know
A gynaecologist checks the new mother over immediately after the delivery to rule out any abnormal bleeding or discomfort in the body. The next check-up happens at six weeks when the body has begun healing itself.
Postpartum complications can occur with either way of delivery – natural birth or delivery via C-section. Here are the most common postpartum complications to watch out for:
1. Postpartum Hemorrhage
Bleeding is natural after delivery. There is a medical term for it, Lochia, which is the combination of blood and mucus that exits the body after childbirth. The heavy bleeding can last up to 3 days post-delivery. Spotting or light bleeding can sometimes continue even up to six weeks.
Lochia is heavier than a normal period. In the first 3-4 days, the bleeding is bright red. Over the next 10 to 30 days, the bleeding slows down gradually and changes colour from pink to brown.
The bleeding is a cause for concern when it is heavy and continues to be heavy even three days after birth. The main signs of haemorrhage include:
- Huge blood clots
- Blood soaking sanitary pads within an hour
- Dizziness and weakness
- Blurred vision
Massive blood loss could lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure. The situation can be dire and immediate action needs to be taken.
Tearing in the vagina is quite common with normal vaginal delivery; and with a C-section, the womb is opened externally through the lower abdomen to deliver the baby. In both these situations, the resulting tear is sealed together with stitches. If done incorrectly or without precision, the wound could get infected.
It will take some time for the scars to heal completely. If after delivery, a few bits of the placenta remain behind, your uterus could be susceptible to some common infections after birth.
Signs of an infection include fever, pain during urination, and discharge on-site of the wound. Usually, a single round of antibiotics is enough to treat the infection if detected early.
Infections, when neglected, could lead to severe complications after delivery like:
- Formation of pus
- Blood clots in the pelvic veins
- Sepsis in the bloodstream
- A blood clot in an artery leading to the heart
The new mother must monitor her body to notice any changes that could be attributed to an infection.
Also, read: Common vaginal infections
3. Postpartum Depression
The symptoms of postpartum depression can show up at any time after you deliver your baby. The ‘baby blues’ that affect women after birth are a result of the roiling hormones in the body. If low feelings persist even after the first few weeks, it leads to postpartum depression.
The signs of depression after birth include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling sad
- Not wanting to bond with your child
You must approach your doctor or medical practitioner if these feelings remain for longer. Other than hormones, excess stress can also lead to depression after delivery. A history of depression in the mother or immediate family can also be a contributing factor.
Postpartum depression can be treated first with medication. However, ensure that the medicine your doctor prescribes is safe to consume during breastfeeding. Exploring negative feelings via psychotherapy and counselling can also alleviate the condition.
4. Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is more severe and comparatively rarer than postpartum depression. The illness usually appears within two weeks after delivery.
The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are:
- Obsessive thoughts about the health of the baby
- Thoughts of harming yourself or baby
- A feeling of paranoia
The illness is not permanent and can be treated with proper help from professionals. However, the psychosis needs immediate attention as soon as symptoms after birth is seen.
The treatment for postpartum psychosis is similar to depression. But the treatment plans can differ depending on the severity of the condition.
How can postpartum complications be avoided?
After childbirth, there needs to be a system in place that prioritises the postpartum health of the mother. There are a few easy to apply protocols:
In the case of a C-section, it is essential to take care of the stitches placed on the place of the incision. The procedure involves cutting through several layers of muscles and the uterus which need to heal to get the body into its natural health.
Vaginal delivery almost always tears into the skin between the vagina and the rectum. Keeping this area clean and infection-free requires the utmost attention. Since these wounds are always covered up, they take more time to heal.
Along with the physical recuperation, mothers should spare equal attention to their mental health. While check-ups verify the physical health, an assessment should be made regarding the emotional well-being and overall mood of the mother. Excessive mood swings and violent overtures should be diagnosed at the earliest to provide the best care possible.
Healing postpartum takes time. After delivery, a woman is more aware of how her body is functioning. The first six weeks involve monitoring the physical health of the mother to assess if the healing is on track.
Similar attention should be given to assess the mental health of women as well. In case of any red flags, you should seek an appointment with a mental health professional who specialises in the field.
Most symptoms of postpartum complications can be mistaken for some other ailment. You need to provide your healthcare provider with the date of delivery for your baby. The information can help them in making the right decision regarding the actual cause of your illness.