Gladskikh-Tatiana/ShutterstockNew moms, beware! If you feel woefully unprepared to bring home your tiny bundle of joy, trust us… You’re not alone.
Here’s the truth about giving birth: Once you come home from the hospital, all of your focus will turn to your little one. As for your health? It pretty much stays on the back-burner. And that’s totally understandable; after all, your baby may be cute, but it also demands a lot of time and energy. Still, not paying enough attention to your well-being could have serious (or even deadly!) consequences, doctors say. (And don’t believe these new mom myths that are totally not true.)
A new study called the 4th Trimester Project, led by experts at UNC Chapel Hill, found that most new moms don’t know about possible post-birth complications, much less how to discuss their symptoms or get treatment. You might have one medical visit six weeks after childbirth, but that’s hardly enough to give your postpartum health the A-OK.
“There’s this fantasy. Your body is going to come back together. Your organs are going to be in place. It’s an illusion,” Isa Herrera, a New York City physical therapist who specializes in pelvic pain, told Vox.
According to Vox, women could face symptoms ranging from heavy bleeding and abdominal cramping to depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. They could also experience constipation, hemorrhoids, chills, night sweats, swollen breasts, back pain, headaches, pain in the perineum (the diamond shaped sling of muscles in the pelvis), incision pain (if the woman has had a C-section), and pain and difficulty walking (after an episiotomy or tear).
These symptoms aren’t uncommon, either. About half of women who give birth still experience pain for weeks afterward, Vox reports. More than 40 percent of women who delivered vaginally reported perineal pain, and nearly 60 percent who had C-sections experienced incision pain within two months of childbirth, according to a 2013 survey.
And it doesn’t stop there. Occasionally, childbirth can lead to more serious complications such as hemorrhage, infection, incontinence, symphysis pubis dysfunction (pelvic girdle pain, which can be debilitating) and pelvic organ prolapse (when weak muscles allow organs to fall into the vagina).
As if bringing home a new baby wasn’t scary enough! Now you have to worry about your own well-being, too. Luckily, there are some initial steps you can take to lay the groundwork for a healthy (and happy!) postpartum experience.
First off, it’s important to recognize your symptoms and take action right away. Women often brush off conditions like pelvic girdle pain and prolapse, believing that what they’re feeling isn’t unusual, Vox says. But doing so can have serious consequences down the road, and by then, it might be too late. Instead, it’s best to see a doctor regularly for any uncomfortable postpartum pain. You may also consider speaking with your OB-GYN or midwife about checking for nerve damage and incontinence after they deliver your baby. Most don’t find postpartum problems because they simply aren’t looking for them, as Kari Bø, a pelvic floor expert at the Norwegian School of Sports Science, told Vox.
But post-birth complications aren’t always physical. Check out these silent signs of postpartum depression.