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New Mom? Watch for These 10 Things That Can Happen After Giving Birth

December 15, 2021

Many new mothers leave the hospital expecting to look and feel like their pre-pregnancy selves. The reality is that the hormonal and physical changes that continue to occur during the six to eight weeks following childbirth can be just as unpredictable as pregnancy itself. 

10 Postpartum Symptoms 

Focusing on caring for your newborn can make it easy to overlook your own mental and physical health, but it’s important to stay tuned in to your recovery. Many women may experience the following during the initial postpartum weeks. 

  1. Vaginal discharge. Even if you delivered via C-section, postpartum bleeding, or lochia, is expected for up to six weeks. You should use maxi pads during this time. 

  2. Vaginal soreness. Stitches from tearing of the perineum can make it painful to sit, walk or even cough and sneeze. Sitting on a pillow, taking sitz baths and using ice packs or chilled witch hazel pads can alleviate discomfort. 

  3. Cramping. Cramps that feel like a contraction can occur as the uterus returns to its previous state. Breastfeeding can intensify these cramps. 

  4. Constipation. Hormonal shifts can increase the risk of postpartum constipation. To help ease discomfort, stool softeners are often suggested as well as increased fluid intake and a higher fiber diet. 

  5. Hair loss. Hormonal changes one to three months postpartum can cause you to shed your once-luscious pregnancy locks. This is typically a sign that hormones are returning to their pre-pregnancy levels, and your hair will return to normal within a few months. 

  6. Night sweats. Nearly a third of women experience postpartum hot flashes due to declining levels of estrogen. 

  7. Pelvic floor issues. Issues such as urinary incontinence affect nearly 25 percent of women in the U.S. Kegel exercises are recommended to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, and your healthcare provider may recommend pelvic floor therapy. 

  8. Headache. A sudden dramatic drop in estrogen levels within the first two weeks following childbirth causes an estimated one in four women to experience headaches. Nearly half of women will endure a migraine during the first month postpartum. 

  9. Phantom kicks. After childbirth, some women experience flutters similar to the feeling of a baby’s movement in utero. There are theories as to their cause, but these “kicks” remain an unexplained postpartum mystery

  10. Postpartum blues. During the first few weeks at home, 70 percent to 80 percent of women may experience feelings of sadness, anxiety and even depression. These fluctuating emotions are expected as hormone levels change and typically resolve on their own. 

When to See Your Doctor

Even if you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it’s important to see your provider after six weeks. If you had elevated blood pressure during delivery or a C-section, you’ll have a follow-up appointment one week after delivery to ensure you’re healing properly. 

Remember that your doctor is always available if something doesn’t feel right. Be sure to call your provider if:

  • You have feelings of hopelessness or sadness that persist for more than a few weeks or impede your daily activity as you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

  • You have a fever or breast pain.

  • You are experiencing symptoms of a blood clot such as swelling, difficulty breathing or chest pain.

  • You are seeing blood clots larger than a quarter or bleeding through more than one pad every hour. 

Preparing for the Unexpected

Fatigue may be the most common postpartum symptom. A little planning can go a long way to helping you adjust to sleepless nights with your newborn. Prepare for up to six weeks of meals to minimize cooking, and wash infant clothes in advance. It’s important to recognize that asking for help is not a weakness. Stagger help with a trusted network who can help if needed with everyday tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping and housekeeping. 

It’s important to understand that each woman’s postpartum experience is unique and focus on being kind to yourself as your body heals. Try to stay attuned to what your body is asking for in addition to attending to your baby. Remember that you spent nine months creating your baby, so prepare to allow your body the time it needs to return to a new normal.

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