Knowing what postpartum symptoms are normal and which ones can be life threatening is crucial. But it can be difficult to know when to seek medical attention. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, so if you aren’t sure, give our midwives a call and let them know what you are experiencing. So what signs and symptoms should you watch out for?
1. Chest Pain
If you are experiencing chest pain after childbirth, you should let your midwife know right away and inform them of any symptoms you may be having. Chest pain could be a sign of a blood clot in the lung- also known as a pulmonary embolism.
Typically if you develop a pulmonary embolism, it will occur shortly after delivery. This happens when a blood clot travels from the legs to the lungs and can be life threatening if not treated immediately. One way to prevent pulmonary embolisms is to wear compression socks during pregnancy, while in labor, and after childbirth. They work by applying pressure to veins within the legs and promoting blood flow.
You may be at a higher risk of developing a pulmonary embolism if you are overweight, have varicose veins, or have a history of blood clots.
Other symptoms you should look out for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the feet or legs
2. Terrible Headache
If you experience a headache that just won’t go away after having your baby, try doing these first:
- Drinking water and staying hydrated
- Resting in a dark room
- Take a nap
- Take an ibuprofen
If you are breastfeeding, be sure to ask your midwife before taking any medication (including ibuprofen) as some medications can be passed to your baby through breastmilk.
After trying the remedies listed above and you still have a headache, check your blood pressure. You can use an at-home blood pressure monitor or you can go to your local pharmacy and ask your pharmacist to check it. High blood pressure could be an indication of preeclampsia, a serious condition that could lead to seizures or stroke.
Get medical attention from your midwife immediately if you suspect you may have preeclampsia. They will be able to diagnose and provide treatment for you.
3. Large Blood Clots or Increase in Bleeding
It is normal to bleed after childbirth for up to six weeks. During the first 24 hours, your blood will be bright red and you can expect blood clots. The size of these blood clots may surprise you, however at this point it should not be concerning. Blood clotting is normal, especially if you have been laying down for long periods of time.
Your bleeding should gradually decrease and the color should turn from bright red to reddish-brown as the days and weeks pass by. You may see a slight uptick in bleeding after exercising, breastfeeding, or when you get up in the morning.
After the first 24-48 hours however, if you pass a blood clot larger than the size of a golf ball or notice sudden excessive bleeding you should contact your midwife right away. This could be a sign of late postpartum hemorrhage or leftover placental tissue and would require medical treatment.
4. Foul Smell From Blood
Lochia, the blood passed after childbirth, should have a smell similar to menstrual blood. If you notice a foul smell coming from your lochia, that could be a sign of infection. It may be accompanied by a fever or chills. If you experience any of these symptoms you should contact your midwife immediately.
The midwife may prescribe antibiotics, so be sure to let them know if you are breastfeeding so they can choose the right antibiotic for you. It’s important to take the antibiotics as directed, even after symptoms subside. Oftentimes, symptoms may disappear before the infection is fully treated and if treatment stops before then, the infection may come back.
To help prevent infection, wash your hands regularly, avoid touching the perineal area, and do not use tampons for postpartum bleeding. Make sure to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated to help with healing.
5. Sudden Outbursts of Anger
Anger is a common sign of Postpartum Depression that is sometimes overlooked. Not everyone who experiences PPD has feelings of sadness, sometimes it presents itself as anger or fits of rage.
If you have been uncharacteristically angry or lashing out at loved ones, it may be time to speak with your midwife about treatment options. They may be able to help you with coping strategies, getting support, or prescription medications. More symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Intrusive thoughts- such as harming yourself or your baby
- Sadness lasting longer than two weeks
- Difficulty getting to sleep
- Trouble controlling your temper
You may be at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression if you have a history of anxiety or depression.
You don’t have to suffer in silence, get the help you need. You deserve to be able to enjoy this time with your baby.
Our midwives have your best interests at heart and they know that what works for some women, won’t work for others. Contact us today if you experience any of these symptoms or have any questions.