KENILWORTH, N.J., Nov. 29, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Expecting mothers devote time and energy to learning how to keep their newborn babies healthy and happy. Yet when it comes to their own health, many mothers don’t take the time to learn which changes in their own health are normal and which could indicate a more serious problem.
Challenges and complications during the postpartum period (the six weeks following delivery) are more common than many mothers and their families think. Merck Manuals author and obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Lara Friel discusses these risks in a new editorial on the site.
To help mothers stay healthy and provide the best care for their baby, Dr. Friel shares three things new mothers and their support networks should keep in mind in the exciting time around the birth of a new baby.
1. Know the most common risks to maternal health
Mothers and their loved ones should keep a close eye out for symptoms of four common complications soon after bringing their baby home:
Excessive bleeding — While rare, postpartum hemorrhage does occur and mothers should alert their doctors if they experience heavy (more than a cup) bright red bleeding several days later. Infection — Fever, chills and muscle aches along with abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal discharge, or frequent or painful urination are all potential signs of infection. Issues with breastfeeding — Mothers should try to be aware of how much milk their baby is getting and watch for breastfeeding complications affecting their health, too. Depression — It can often be difficult to distinguish a normal reaction to the challenges of a newborn from symptoms of postpartum depression, like irritability and mood swings.
Depression is particularly important to watch for. Rapidly changing hormones combined with a lack of sleep results in postpartum depression in as many of 15 percent of new mothers. It’s more common in women who’ve had depressive episodes in the past.
2. Rely on your village
Whenever possible, new mothers should get some support in the first few weeks after giving birth, which can allow them to rest and focus on their own health. This can be support from a spouse, family member, friend, or hired help.
Family, friends and loved ones should be vigilant in watching for potential negative changes in a mother’s health. Mothers may be tired and busy, but they should still be eating, getting dressed and leaving the