Postpartum Complications: Symptoms and Treatments
Postpartum complications are common but they don’t always cause much distress. However, there are some symptoms which could be alarming or even dangerous for your baby’s health. These symptoms may occur when the mother was pregnant again.
Some of these symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma etc… But it is possible that the problem occurs because of pregnancy itself.
Here are some of the most common postpartum complications:
1. High Blood Pressure After Pregnancy (PBP) – This condition occurs when the blood pressure goes up during pregnancy due to the increased amount of fluid in the body.
If you have high blood pressure after pregnancy, then you will experience dizziness, weakness, fatigue and headaches. You need to take special measures for managing your blood pressure while pregnant so that it doesn’t get too high.
2. Low Blood Sugar During Pregnancy (hypoglycemia) – This condition occurs when the level of sugar in the blood drops during pregnancy due to the increased amount of fluid in the body.
If you have low blood sugar during pregnancy, then you will feel tiredness, nausea and vomiting. You need to avoid foods like sweets and processed food products which contain sugars. You can also drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
3. Pre-Eclampsia – This condition occurs when the mother develops high blood pressure along with protein in the urine and it can be dangerous for both mother and child.
You should call your doctor immediately if you start to experience headaches, visual disturbances, severe pain below the ribs, swelling in feet and hands, very heavy vaginal bleeding during or after birth and sudden seizures (eclampsia).
4. Abnormal Bleeding – This condition occurs when a woman experiences heavy bleeding from the vaginal region during or after labor which in some cases can be life threatening.
You should call your doctor immediately if you start to experience spontaneous vaginal bleeding with or without contractions.
5. Tears (Facial, Anal or Uterine) – These conditions occur when a woman tears her facial skin while giving birth, tears her rectum while giving birth or Tear her uterus while giving birth.
You should immediately seek medical treatment if you start to experience severe pain while sitting, passing stool or having sexual relationship.
6. Retained Placenta – This condition occurs when the placenta (afterbirth) is not separated from the wall of the uterus within 24 hours of birth.
If you notice that the placenta is still attached to your uterus you need to call your doctor immediately.
7. Infection – This condition occurs when a woman’s organs, skin or the tissue inside her body gets infected during or after birth.
You should immediately seek medical treatment if you experience sudden fever, chills, diarrhea and vomiting, pain while urinating or redness and swelling in the vaginal region or any other body part.
8. Delayed Umbilical Cord Detachment – This condition occurs when the umbilical cord does not detach from the newborn baby.
If you notice that your baby’s belly button looks like an open wound and there is still a cord attached, then you need to immediately call your doctor.
9. Retained Umbilical Cord – This condition occurs when the umbilical cord sticks to the lining of the uterus after birth.
You should immediately seek medical treatment if you notice that you still have the umbilical cord coming out of your belly button even after a week of giving birth.
10. Bleeding in Pregnancy – This condition occurs when a woman experiences heavy bleeding in the second half of pregnancy. You should immediately seek medical treatment if you experience vaginal bleeding at any time during your pregnancy.
When you call your doctor’s office, they will ask you questions about the type and duration of your pain, any medications you have taken and other important questions pertaining to your medical history. The nurse will also perform a physical examination on your stomach and may try to find the position of the fetus inside your womb. Your doctor may also ask you to take an ultrasound or an internal examination.
He or she may request a blood test and other relevant tests depending on the case. After diagnosis, your doctor will discuss the appropriate treatment options with you.
After treatment, your doctor will advise you to follow up after 1-2 days at the latest. This is to ensure that you are feeling much better and that the cause of the pain has been completely eliminated.
You should also remember that if your pain is caused by contractions, then it may start and stop suddenly. Pain may also be felt in one side and then move to another part of the body. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately call your doctor.
If you experience severe pain, you should also go to the emergency room.
You should seek emergency care immediately if you notice blood leaking from your genital area or a gush of fluid coming out.
If you have the feeling that your water broke but there is no baby yet, then this may be a sign of a potentially problematic condition known as pre-term labor. If left untreated, pre-term labor may lead to other health complications.
Other symptoms of pre-term labor include a regular pattern of painful contractions, diarrhea or a large amount of vaginal discharge.
If you are in the middle of your pregnancy and you experience heavy vaginal bleeding or spotting, pain in your lower back or pain in the lower part of your abdomen, then this may be a sign that your baby is no longer alive. While this condition is known as a missed abortion, it can also occur with normal pregnancies. There will be no signs that the fetus is alive such as movement.
The only way to determine if this condition is present is to conduct an ultrasound or perform a sonogram to check on the baby’s heartbeat.
You may experience this condition if you suffer from an infection in your womb and fall into a severe state of sepsis known as septicemia. This condition can be life threatening and you should seek immediate medical attention.
Not all women will experience all of these conditions. Some women suffer from the same condition more than once during their pregnancies. Others may experience conditions that are not included on this list at all.
If you have any concerns about your own pregnancy condition, you should contact your doctor immediately for professional help.
Sources & references used in this article:
Postpartum hypertension after use of vasoconstrictor and oxytocic drugs: Etiology, incidence, complications, and treatment by GN Casady, DC Moore… – Journal of the American …, 1960 – jamanetwork.com
Imaging of postpartum complications: a multimodality review by M Plunk, JH Lee, K Kani… – American Journal of …, 2013 – Am Roentgen Ray Soc
Stepped care treatment of postpartum depression: a primary care-based management model by D Gjerdingen, W Katon, DE Rich – Women’s Health Issues, 2008 – Elsevier
Postpartum depression: diagnostic and treatment issues by V Sharma, P Sharma – Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 2012 – Elsevier
Treatment of postpartum depression: clinical, psychological and pharmacological options by E Fitelson, S Kim, AS Baker, K Leight – International journal of …, 2011 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov