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Normal vs Abnormal Postpartum Symptoms

by Dianna Graveman
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After your new baby arrives, you'll be understandably tired for a few weeks. You are not only recovering from pregnancy and labor, but your sleep will be interrupted more often. Emotions also run high at this time, and hormones fluctuate. With so much going on, it can be difficult to know when you are experiencing abnormal physical symptoms post birth and when your body is simply working overtime to adjust and return to normal.

Normal Physical Symptoms

Besides feeling tired, you may also notice you are hungry! This can be due to the relief, both emotional and physical, of having come through the delivery safely. You no longer have the baby inside pressing on your stomach and taking up room. Breastfeeding uses additional calories and can add to the hunger pangs. Choose healthy snacks and get help with meal preparation, if possible, to ensure you meet your (and your baby's) nutritional needs.

You may also notice that you perspire quite a bit for several days immediately following your baby's birth. For some women, this happens more at night while trying to sleep, but for others, it can be an annoyance during the daytime. Your body is simply ridding itself of excess fluid build-up from late pregnancy. IV fluids administered during birth can add to the fluid build-up, too.

Those same IV fluids and retained water can cause a feeling of being "swollen" for a few days after giving birth. This usually resolves within a few days or a week.

Most postpartum mothers realize they will have some bleeding after the birth. Your body has done some tough work! Interestingly, reports suggest that mothers who have a cesarean section often have some bleeding after birth, not just those who give birth vaginally. You may pass some blood clots during the first few days, but consult your medical health professional if the bleeding seems excessive or does not begin to slow down in a reasonable amount of time.
Finally, many women notice some hair loss while taking a shower or brushing their hair for a few months following the birth. If you notice the hair loss continues and does not slow down, consult your health care provider. You may be experiencing a symptom related to postpartum thyroiditis.

Abnormal Symptoms Postpartum

A fairly common condition among postpartum women is thyroiditis. Typically, a woman who develops hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) will notice symptoms between two and six months after giving birth, but a smaller number of women develop hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) between one and four months after delivery. In both cases, the thyroid issue eventually resolves on its own.

Occasionally thyroiditis lasts longer, and in some cases, the disorder does not resolve and requires treatment.

You may experience some of these symptoms if your thyroid is either underactive or overactive.

  • Hair loss (that does not stop or slow down within the first few months)
  • Fatigue (excessive, beyond what you'd expect with a new baby)
  • An enlarged thyroid gland (with no tenderness)
  • Decreased milk production, if you are breastfeeding
  • Above-normal moodiness or depression

In addition, if your thyroid is overactive, you may experience anxiety, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, tremor, weight loss, and diarrhea.

If it is underactive, possible symptoms could include dry skin, weight gain, constipation, and low body temperature, or a feeling of being chilled.

While bleeding is an expected side-effect after delivery, it is important to watch for signs of abnormal bleeding or hemorrhage. If the blood seems excessive, continues for more than a few weeks, or is bright red, consult your doctor. Note any unusual, continued, or excessive abdominal discomfort, as this can be a sign of internal hemorrhage. If you develop a fever along with the discomfort, don't wait! Contact your health care provider immediately.


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