As a new mom, you don’t have the time to get sick. Babies need to be fed, burped, and put to bed; diapers need to be changed; and clothes need to be washed. Aches and pains are overlooked and ignored – after all, there is some discomfort in the postpartum period following childbirth.
You might even ignore symptoms that would normally send you to the pediatrician’s office if your children complained of them. Stomach pains? Oh, it’s just menstrual cramps or bad gas. Feeling under the weather? Must be PMS. Heart palpitations? It’s just stress.
Be careful about the postpartum health symptoms that you ignore. Sometimes, your body is crying for help. Pay attention to the symptoms you experience, and don’t automatically ignore them.
After you give birth, you will undergo physical and emotional changes, which are absolutely normal, but they can also trigger and hide certain health problems. You may want to talk to a doctor if you experience any of the following postpartum health symptoms.
Sexual Intercourse is Uncomfortable
After you give birth, no matter if you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section, your body needs time to heal. Doctors don’t recommend that women have sexual intercourse until after 6 weeks postpartum. When you do start having sex again, you may feel pain and tenderness, especially at the start of intercourse. This may last for three months up to a year after delivery.
Pain at the beginning of sex may be due to vaginal dryness – which is a common postpartum symptom due to the lower estrogen levels after childbirth. Estrogen also drops during breastfeeding. Your healthcare provider may recommend you try a vaginal lubricant, like KY Jelly, to make sex more comfortable. Your doctor may also prescribe an estrogen cream.
Sometimes, discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse is caused by a yeast infection. You can treat yeast infections with over-the-counter antifungal medications, but it’s important that you visit your doctor first to get an accurate diagnosis.
If you have no pain at the start of intercourse, but you have searing pain upon deep penetration or thrusting, something more serious may be to blame. You may have endometriosis (a gynecological condition in which the tissue that normally lines your uterus grows outside the womb), or a cyst or tumor on your uterus, vagina, or ovaries.
In a nutshell – pain at the beginning of the sex isn’t anything to worry about. It might be caused by vaginal dryness or a yeast infection. Pain upon deep penetration or during thrusting might be a sign of something serious.
Fatigue and Exhaustion
Feeling exhausted and tired is normal for new moms. From those midnight feedings to caring for a fussy baby, motherhood leaves little time for sleep and rest. You may have even gained a few pounds, or lost some.
Fatigue and weight fluctuations are common in mothers with young children. However, sometimes they can signal there’s a problem with your thyroid – the hormone-producing gland in your neck that helps regulate metabolism.
Thyroid problems are more common in women than men, and they usually make their appearance in your 20s to 40s. They’re often diagnosed after a pregnancy, making them a postpartum health concern.
There are two types of thyroid problems – an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and an overactive thyroid (hyper-thyroidism).
If you have an underactive thyroid, you may experience irregular or very light periods, fatigue, constipation, and unexplained weight gain. This disorder is easily treated with thyroid-hormone pills.
On the other hand, if you have an overactive thyroid, you may experience heavy and irregular periods, anxiety, and diarrhea. This condition is more serious, and it is treated with surgery, medication to lower the levels of the thyroid hormone, and radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid.
Sometimes, you don’t need any treatment for your thyroid problems. An estimated 1 in 10 women will experience thyroid problems postpartum. In most cases, this postpartum health issue will disappear within a few months and you will be back to normal.
Excessive Thirst and Frequent Urination
If you experience excessive thirst, or you’re constantly running to the bathroom to pee, you should watch out for Type 2 Diabetes – a condition in which your body loses its sensitivity to insulin and cannot regulate your blood sugar levels. Excessive thirst and frequent urination are common symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.
One of the main causes of Type 2 Diabetes is obesity. This disease has skyrocketed in recent decades. You may be at risk for Type 2 Diabetes if you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy and you don’t lose it all afterwards.
If you experienced gestational diabetes (which is diabetes that develops during pregnancy and goes away after you give birth), you are at higher risk of becoming diabetic later in life, if you don’t exercise or eat healthy.
Diabetes is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. Medication, healthy eating, and exercise can control the disease. Uncontrolled diabetes that is left untreated can increase the risk of heart disease, kidney problems, and nerve complications.
A New or Changing Mole
It’s easy to ignore a mole that looks a little darker than normal. Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and in the postpartum period may be to blame for a darker colored mole.
However, you never want to ignore a mole that is changing on you. And you don’t want to ignore a new mole. It may be a sign of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma that is caught early has a 90 percent survival rate. Unfortunately, if the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, the cure rate drops to less than 50 percent. Early detection is key.
Always talk to your doctor about mole changes. If your mole is itchy, bleeding, or painful, have it checked out by a dermatologist.
Shortness of Breath
Feeling short of breath is normal in pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. After you deliver your baby, you should never feel short of breath. It may be a sign of an illness or postpartum health problem.
If you have shortness of breath along with fatigue, difficulty concentration, pale skin and nails, and problems exercising for more than a couple of minutes, you may have anemia – you don’t have enough red blood cells in your body.
Anemia is treated with a high-dose iron supplement. Women with anemia are often asked to eat more iron-fortified foods, such as red meat, fortified cereals, dark greens, and beans.
Call the Doctor When Something Feels Off
The bottom line is – Listen to your body. If you feel like something is off, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about it.