Postnatal Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Hemorrhage, depression, infections, and arterial hypertension are some examples of illnesses that can appear in the postpartum period. So, here are the postnatal symptoms you shouldn't ignore.
Postnatal Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Postnatal symptoms can vary quite a bit, but there’s a small proportion of them that you should never overlook. A simple rise in temperature can be the result of an infection, as can the presence of foul-smelling vaginal secretions, for example.

It’s important to learn to recognize all these alterations in order to see a doctor early. That way, you have the possibility of reducing the incidence of complications.

Postpartum hemorrhage

Postpartum hemorrhage is one of the complications to which doctors and patients themselves should be most attentive. As the name implies, it’s a substantial loss of blood after the birth of the baby. The average volume is about 1 liter, but more important than the amount are the clinical manifestations.

In addition to bleeding, there’s a decrease in blood pressure, coldness in the extremities, cutaneous and mucosal pallor, increased heart rate, and decreased consciousness.

According to some studies, there are two types of postpartum hemorrhage. The primary type occurs in the first 24 hours after delivery, while the secondary type occurs from that time until 6 weeks after delivery.

High blood pressure

A doctor taking a woman's blood pressure.
Postpartum blood pressure checks are important.

Chances are, if you had high blood pressure during pregnancy, your doctor will have diagnosed it at one of your visits. However, it’s also possible to begin to develop this condition after the baby is born, although it’s usually a case of postpartum preeclampsia, as we’ll discuss below.

Preeclampsia

According to a Mayo Clinic publication, preeclampsia usually occurs in the first 48 hours after delivery. As with cases occurring during pregnancy, the key postnatal symptoms are swelling of the extremities and headache.

Diagnosis requires corroboration of elevated blood pressure and the presence of abundant protein in the urine. Under normal conditions, this fluid doesn’t contain molecules as large as proteins.

Strange behaviors

These behaviors usually have to do with a clinical condition called postpartum psychosis. Like any psychotic crisis, postnatal symptoms involve alterations in personality and changes in the perception of reality.

Some scientific review studies explain that affected women may present hallucinations, irritability, anxiety, concentration problems, and agitation. In fact, experts know that anyone suffering from this condition has a higher risk of suicide or infanticide, so medical or psychological consultation is very important.

Severe or persistent headache

Headache is a somewhat nonspecific symptom, but it’s one of the postnatal symptoms that you should never overlook. The causes are very variable and depend very much on the context, especially the time of onset. Some mothers who receive epidural anesthesia during labor may experience headaches as a complication of the procedure, for which there are some specific medications.

Other causes are sleep deprivation and anxiety, which can lead to a clinical condition known as a tension headache. The same is true in cases of persistent elevation of blood pressure and emotional factors.

Shortness of breath or chest pain

Shortness of breath or dyspnea during the postpartum period isn’t normal. In severe cases, accompanying postnatal symptoms may include pallor, coldness in the extremities, and blueness in the extremities.

Some of these clinical pictures are called acute respiratory distress syndrome in the puerperium. Some research suggests that it’s due to problems with the immune system, which have to do with a higher risk of severe respiratory infections. In the latter case, the appearance of fever and cough with expectoration is usual.

Foul odor

One of the most striking postnatal symptoms is lochia. These are normal vaginal secretions that have a combination of blood and mucus and progressively change in appearance as the days go by.

When lochia takes on a foul odor, an infection may be developing in the internal tissue of the uterus (endometrium). According to the MSD Manual, puerperal endometritis may involve fever, lower abdominal pain, and malaise.

Extreme sadness

A woman with postpartum depression holding her baby and looking off into the distance sadly.
Postpartum depression may take some time to appear.

While women may experience some negative feelings after their baby’s born, it’s never normal to feel extreme sadness. This is associated with the development of postpartum depression.

Interestingly, according to some research, the symptoms don’t usually begin in the first few days of the postpartum period. In fact, they most commonly begin between the first and sixth months, so sometimes the precise diagnosis can be confusing.

Postpartum depression is a serious diagnosis, as it can have a significant impact on the development of the baby and the family environment in general. According to the same study already we already mentioned, the approach includes pharmacological and non-pharmacological aspects, such as lifestyle changes and mental therapy.

Stomach pain

Stomach pain is a somewhat nonspecific term that’s generally associated with abdominal pain in its middle and upper portions. This place is known as the epigastrium and the symptom is called epigastralgia.

Occasionally, the pain may originate there or appear secondarily from a focus of more intense pain elsewhere in the abdomen. For example, cases of pancreatitis have been reported after cesarean section. Some causes of acute surgical abdomen at this stage are appendicitis and cholecystitis.

Fever

Most logically, the onset of fever is due to some infection. This postnatal symptom is a natural response of the body to the presence of harmful germs, although a smaller proportion of cases may occur even in their absence.

The most frequent infections in the puerperium are the following:

  • Endometritis
  • Surgical site infection, in the case of cesarean sections
  • Mastitis

In the event of any abnormal symptom, it’s important to see a doctor

Any of the conditions we’ve mentioned can cause serious complications. Therefore, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Go to the doctor as soon as possible in case of any of them and avoid self-medication.

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