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7 Warning Signs & Symptoms to be Aware of Postpartum

November 28, 2023

by Robina Mekenye

What Is Postpartum?

From nausea and mood swings to itchy stretch marks and beyond, your body goes through a lot over the nine months of pregnancy. Of course, it all feels worth it once you hold your sweet newborn for the first time — but your body isn't quite out of the woods yet. 

The first six weeks after birth are called the postpartum period. During this time, the uterus shrinks, milk starts coming in, and hormones surge, all of which can make this time particularly challenging for a mom trying to adjust to life with a newborn.

While the postpartum period may feel like a rollercoaster you just have to ride out, some symptoms could point to larger problems. Here are seven signs you should watch for when you or someone you love are postpartum.

1. Fever or Chills

There are a few reasons why a woman might develop a fever in the days or weeks postpartum. Sometimes, it's simply a side effect of inflammation as your body heals from delivery. But if your fever is too high and develops along with other symptoms like chills, it might be a sign of an infection in your uterine lining, breast tissue, or incision site (if you had a C-section). 

Keep a close eye on any postpartum fever, and see a doctor if your temperature rises above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Dizziness or Fainting

Between the adorable snuggles, late-night feedings, and visits from family and friends, it's easy to feel a little fatigued and dizzy by the end of the day. But if you really feel like your head is spinning, or if you faint during the postpartum period, it's wise to see a doctor right away.

Postpartum dizziness can occur if a mother is anemic, dehydrated, or dealing with low blood pressure or low blood sugar. But whatever the culprit, a doctor can help you find the right treatment to keep the dizziness at bay.

3. Swelling of Hands, Face, and Body

Swelling is a very common side effect during the postpartum period. Women can suffer from hemorrhoids, painful breast engorgement, and even edema in the arms and legs. 

In many cases, you can treat postpartum swelling at home with compression garments, warm baths, and light exercise, but your doctor may be able to offer other solutions if the swelling persists throughout the postpartum period.

4. Heavy Bleeding

One of the more concerning postpartum symptoms is postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), or severe vaginal bleeding after delivery. PPH typically occurs in the first 24 hours after giving birth, but it can happen at any time up to 12 weeks postpartum.

While women can expect some postpartum bleeding, PPH is a very serious condition that can be fatal if not treated right away. If you notice that you're experiencing persistent, heavy bleeding and symptoms like pelvic pain, vomiting, and pale or clammy skin, see a medical professional immediately.

5. Trouble Breathing

If you have trouble breathing in the weeks after you give birth, you may be experiencing peripartum cardiomyopathy. This condition, which weakens your heart muscle, begins in the last month of pregnancy and often lasts up to five months postpartum.

You can recover from peripartum cardiomyopathy on your own, but it's always best to see your doctor to determine whether you need treatment, which might include medications or even mechanical support if your condition becomes more serious.

6. Lasting Feelings of Sadness

In recent years, many women have begun to open up about their experience with postpartum depression, or PPD. This is a very common issue, affecting around one in 10 women after giving birth. But even though PPD is common, it can still be devastating and dangerous, so it is vital to talk to a professional.

If you notice lasting feelings of sadness, difficulty bonding with your baby, or a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, tell your loved ones and a doctor right away. If you’re in the U.S., you can also call or text 988 any time to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and talk to someone there. Taking care of your mental health is always important, and the postpartum period is no exception.

7. Extreme Pain or Discomfort

It is normal to experience some discomfort and pain after giving birth. However, if that pain becomes excessive, it's time to call the doctor. 

Whether you're experiencing severe cramping, abdominal pain, headaches, leg cramps, or any other discomfort, don't hesitate to ask a medical professional for their advice. Your pain might be a sign of preeclampsia, a blood clot, or another dangerous condition.

When To Seek Professional Help

When you're postpartum, you have a lot on your plate. Your body is recovering from a significant event, your new child needs you for everything, and you are probably bouncing between feeling over the moon and overwhelmed. But during this time, remember to trust your body and reach out for help if anything feels off.

Your doctor, loved ones, and your new baby want you to feel healthy and happy as soon as possible, so make sure to take care of yourself and get support for postpartum pain management as you adjust to life with your little one.

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