20 Common Postpartum Complications & Their Solutions

Pregnancy is a tough ride, but holding your baby in your arms at the end is worth the journey. However, for many women, problems don’t end here. There are several complications after delivery that can affect you physically, mentally as well as emotionally. This article will help you understand the twenty most common problems after pregnancy and their solutions.

Common Postnatal Complications You Must be Aware Of

Here are some common complications after delivery you will need to look out for.

1. Postpartum Haemorrhage

Bleeding is expected during and after birth, but if there is a significant jump in volume, it is considered as postpartum haemorrhage. This condition is one of the most common causes of death during and after childbirth. Postpartum haemorrhage is observed in around one in fifty deliveries, especially if the labour is protracted or if there are multiple births (twins, triplets, and so on). In this case, the cervix or uterus might tear, which can damage the placenta, increasing blood loss.

How to Deal with it

There are several methods to treat postpartum haemorrhage. For example, performing a uterus massage, elevating your legs above the position of the heart, and supporting breathing with oxygen masks. Several drugs are also available, such as methergine and hemabate, but if these do not take effect, surgeries can be performed.

2. Infections of the Kidneys

Kidney infections occur if pathogenic bacteria enter the cervix from the urinary bladder. The symptoms observed in this condition are an increase in urination, constant need to urinate, fever, malaise, lower back aches, difficulty urinating and constipation.

How to Deal with it

If a kidney infection is diagnosed, the first course of treatment involves intravenous or oral antibiotics. Further, you may be asked to drink lots of fluids to maintain hydration levels. Urine tests for screening are also essential during and at the end of the treatment regimen.

3. Postpartum C-Section Pain

Caesarean section is an invasive procedure that involves cutting open the abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. The incision is then sewn shut with medical sutures. This wound will take time to heal, and might be tender and painful to the touch for a couple of weeks after.

How to Deal with it

Bedrest is crucial after a C-section. You might be prescribed pain medications as well as antibiotics to speed up the healing process. Gas build up and constipation can worsen the pain by adding pressure to the stitches. This can be avoided by eating at a slow pace, avoiding highly flavoured food items and staying hydrated.

4. Discharge from the Vagina

Lochia is an expected side-effect for a few weeks after delivery. Consisting of placental fragments, vaginal fluids and blood clots, lochia tends to be crimson red in colour for the first week, slowly becoming pink, yellow and white over time.

How to Deal with it

As this is an inevitable phenomenon, the only thing to be done is wait for the discharge to stop. Lochia secretion increases during breastfeeding and exercise, but it tends to reduce in volume before stopping entirely.

5. Postpartum Incontinence

The muscles involved in pushing the baby through the cervix are the same used to keep urine from passing involuntarily. After birth, these pelvic muscles will be sore, and some urinary incontinence is to be expected. This means that it will be difficult to control urine from leaking out, especially during activities like laughing or walking.

Postpartum Incontinence

How to Deal with it

Regaining bladder control after delivery might take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The recommended treatments are Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic muscles. To prevent any embarrassing situations, sanitary napkins or panty liners may be worn to absorb the urine.

6. Mastitis

Mastitis is a breast infection whose symptoms include tender red spots on the breast, nausea, fever, headache and chills. It is caused by bacteria and exacerbated by reduced immunity from the stress of delivery. Cracked nipples from over suckling can also cause the infections.

How to Deal with it

Mastitis needs to be diagnosed by a doctor, who will prescribe antibiotics such as Cephalexin and Dicloxacillin. Luckily, breastfeeding is not affected by the infection and can be continued. To ease the pain, alternating hot and cold treatments can be applied to the sore areas. It is also important to wear loose clothing during this time to prevent any friction or sweat accumulation.

7. Clogged Milk Ducts

Clogged milk ducts are caused by blockages in the milk ducts and resemble the symptoms of mastitis. These include throbbing pain, redness and swollen breasts.

How to Deal with it

The most effective treatment regimen comprises of breast massages to ease the flow of milk, regular nursing or milk extraction, and warm towels to soothe the discomfort and swelling.

8. Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are the reddish, beige or brown lines that appear when the skin stretches and then goes back to being normal after a short period. They are quite common after delivery, usually on the thighs, belly, hips and breasts.

How to Deal with it

As stretch marks are a beauty issue, they do not cause any physical distress. However, many women may not like the sight of these striations and buy creams and lotions that are sold for this specific issue. Unfortunately, most of these products do not really work.

9. Postpartum Constipation

Constipation occurs during the last weeks of pregnancy as the growing foetus puts pressure on the bowels, preventing the emptying of wastes. This problem often continues after delivery and can be very uncomfortable. Constipation can also worsen conditions like urinary incontinence.

How to Deal with it

Postpartum constipation generally resolves by itself after a week or so, but there are a few ways to get some relief. Increase fibre in your diet, such as green veggies, fruits, grains and lentils. Drink at least three litres of water a day, especially if you are breastfeeding. Regular exercise can also improve digestion, such as walking or jogging. In extreme situations, constipation can lead to haemorrhoids, in which case you might be prescribed stool softeners to ease your bowel movements.

10. Breast Engorgement

Breasts naturally swell a couple of days after childbirth when the milk comes in. This leads to an increase in size and weight which can cause soreness.

Breast Engorgement

How to Deal with it

Breast engorgement will disappear after a regular breastfeeding schedule is established. If necessary, you can reduce some of the pressure by expelling milk using a breast pump. Pain medications and cold packs can also help if the discomfort is excessive.

11. Postpartum Hair Fall

The pregnancy glow that made your hair and skin lustrous was due to the peak in hormone levels. Once the hormone levels drop after childbirth, you will begin to shed considerable amounts of hair. This is because your body is compensating for the lack of hair fall during the pregnancy.

How to Deal with it

Since hormone levels will return to their usual states over four to six months, hair fall will reduce naturally without any involvement from your side. You can also reduce the risks of hair fall by consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Avoid using hair dryers on the high heat settings as this could damage hair causing more hair loss.

12. Endometritis

Endometritis is a bacterial inflammation of the uterine lining known as the endometrium. Symptoms associated with this condition include very high fever, abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, and so on. The causes include extended labour periods, membrane rupture and C-section deliveries. If not controlled, endometritis can lead to blood and blood vessel infections, pelvic abscesses, and septic shock. In the latter case, it might lead to coma or even death.

How to Deal with it

The standard treatment procedure comprises of antibiotics such as clindamycin and gentamicin. Bedrest, hydration and a diet rich in vitamins and minerals are strongly recommended as well.

13. Postpartum Depression

Popularly known as the baby blues, many women experience depressive symptoms after childbirth due to the change in hormone levels as well as the added responsibility of taking care of a baby. Postpartum depression affects at least one in ten new mothers and is characterised by emotions such as anxiousness, hopelessness and panic. Other symptoms include loss of interest in most activities, weight loss, tiredness, guilt, insomnia, suicidal tendencies and so on.

How to Deal with it

If you feel depression emerging, please remember that the three best options for you are rest, exercise and diet. Studies show that mothers who consume well-balanced meals, take enough rest and engage themselves in mild activities like walking or swimming are less likely to be depressed. Additionally, enlist the help of your friends and family to take care of some of your duties so you can focus on healing.

14. Uterus Infections

During a healthy birth, the placenta is pushed out of the birth canal less than half an hour after the baby. Occasionally, a piece might remain in the uterus, which can result in infection of the uterine tissues. The amniotic sac may also get infected during labour, which can cause postpartum complications such as lowered immunity, high-temperature fever, palpitations, tender abdomen, foul discharges and so on.

How to Deal with it

Once your doctor diagnoses the infection, you will be prescribed intravenous antibiotics to control its spread. This is crucial to avoid further complications such as septic shock, which can be fatal.

15. Discomfort During Intercourse

It is important to take your time to get physically and emotionally comfortable before resuming your sex life. This means at least five to seven weeks until your vaginal and cervical tissues are totally healed. Sexual intercourse might be uncomfortable, sometimes for months after childbirth. Furthermore, the hormonal fluctuations you have been through can affect your sex drive, leaving you less interested in sex.

Pain during intercourse

How to Deal with it

Understand that these problems are not permanent. Being open about your physical discomfiture as well as emotional vulnerability with your partner is the first step towards rebuilding the bonds of intimacy.

16. Rectal, Uterine or Bladder Prolapse

A prolapse is the condition of an organ slipping out of place. Difficult pregnancies or multiple births can lead to prolapses of the rectum, uterus or bladder. Symptoms of uterine and rectal prolapses include a pulling sensation in the abdomen, severe discomfort and difficulty with urination or passing bowel movements.

How to Deal with it

If the prolapse is mild, the doctor will suggest losing excess weight, avoiding heavy lifting, and smoking cessation. Kegel exercises can also help make the pelvic muscles stronger. In some severe conditions, surgery might be necessary to readjust the position of the prolapsed organ.

17. Episiotomy Pain

An episiotomy is a procedure where a small slit is made between the perineum and the vagina, opening up the birth canal for a tricky delivery. During the healing process, you may experience tenderness and dull pain in the perineal region.

How to Deal with it

A few methods to soothe episiotomy pain include ice pack treatments and warm baths. Ensure that the area is kept clean and away from friction. This means only loose underwear that allows air circulation. You may also employ special maxi pads that have ice packs inside them. Contact your doctor if the perineal region becomes hot, swollen or itchy.

18. Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland, which can occur after childbirth. This is more common in new mothers, as the infection is caused by the increase in anti-thyroid antibodies in the bloodstream. It can come in two forms, hypothyroidism, which is characterised by loss of weight, nausea, fatigue, cramps and so on, and hyperthyroidism, which is characterised by tiredness, mood swings, insomnia and heart palpitations.

How to Deal with it

Diagnosis requires a radioactive iodine test to confirm the symptoms. Thyroiditis treatment is dependent on various factors like age, health, preference and extent of the condition. No specific treatment is required in the beginning stages, but thyroid hormone therapy might be recommended if the disease progresses.

19. Urinary Difficulty 

You might find it difficult to urinate immediately after birth. Some causes include the anaesthetic used and the decrease in bladder sensitivity due to the pressure experienced during labour.

How to Deal with it

Drinking enough fluids will help reset your urinary system in a few hours. If urination continues to be difficult, you might have to endure the insertion of a catheter to obtain relief. Your doctor might even run tests to identify any potential infections in the urinary tract.

20. Painful Headaches 

Continuous or chronic headaches are symptomatic of anaesthesia used during childbirth. However, they could also implicate conditions like preeclampsia, which can lead to severe symptoms like nausea and vomiting, swelling of the extremities, rise in blood pressure, blurry vision, and so on.

Painful headache

How to Deal with it

If you experience more than a few of the above symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical treatment immediately. For instance, if you feel a pain in your lower legs, elevate them immediately and contact your doctor, but a nagging chest pain necessitates calling an ambulance.

When Should You Consult a Doctor?

Pay close attention to your body for the first few months after delivery. It is important to contact your doctor if you observe any of the symptoms described below, as they could imply underlying postnatal problems.

  • Excessive bleeding or chronic pain in the vaginal area.
  • High-temperature fevers associated with coughing and lower abdominal pain.
  • Shooting pains or tenderness in the limbs, chest or abdomen.
  • Thoughts of suicide, violence or depression.
  • Foul smelling vaginal discharges two weeks after delivery.

The postpartum period is an important one in the context of healing from childbirth. This is the time when your hormonal imbalances will right themselves, your moods will stabilise and your body will return to its previous strength and flexibility. The more you understand the potential postpartum complications, the more prepared you will be to handle the changes that come with it. In the frenzy of taking care of your newborn, please don’t forget to focus on your health as well.

Also Read: Postpartum Depression – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment