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Stay Healthy After Delivery

Postpartum Danger Signs

Postpartum discomforts are normal. However, some discomforts may be a sign that there is a problem. Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Fever more than 100.4°F
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Bleeding that’s heavier than a normal menstrual period or that increases
  • Severe pain in your lower abdomen
  • Pain, swelling, and tenderness in your legs
  • Chest pain and coughing or gasping for air
  • Red streaks on your breasts or painful new lumps in your breasts
  • Pain that doesn’t go away or that gets worse from an episiotomy, perineal tear, or abdominal incision
  • Redness or discharge from an episiotomy, perineal tear, or abdominal incision
  • Vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Feelings of hopelessness that last more than 10 days after delivery

Postpartum Sadness and Depression

Feeling sad after having a baby is actually very common. In fact, about 70-80% of new mothers have feelings of sadness that are known as the “baby blues” or “maternity blues”. But for about 10-15% of women, these feelings are more intense and don’t go away in a few weeks. This can signal a more serious condition called postpartum depression.

Baby Blues. The baby blues usually start within a few days of giving birth. Many new mothers feel depressed, anxious, and upset after the birth of a child. These feelings don’t seem to match their expectations. They wonder, “What have I got to be depressed about?” Also, they fear that having these feelings means they are bad mothers. These emotions, however, are very normal. Many women feel sad after giving birth. Most often, the baby blues go away on their own within a couple of days.

When you feel blue, remind yourself that you have just taken on a huge job. Feeling sad, anxious, or even angry doesn’t mean you are a failure as a mother. It also doesn’t mean you are mentally ill. It simply means that your body is adjusting to the normal changes that follow the birth of a child.

It can be helpful to talk to your health care provider about your feelings. The following also may help you feel better:

  • Talk to your partner or a good friend about how you feel.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Ask your partner, friends, and family for help.
  • Take time for yourself. Get out of the house each day, even if it’s only for a short while.

Postpartum Depression. Postpartum depression is marked by feelings of despair, severe anxiety, or hopelessness that get in the way of daily life. It can occur up to 1 year after having a baby, but it most commonly happens about 1-3 weeks after childbirth.

Some women are more likely to have postpartum depression than others. Risk factors for postpartum depression include the following:

  • History of depression before, after, or during pregnancy
  • History of premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Recent stress, such as losing a loved one, a family illness, or moving to a new city
  • Lack of support from others

If you have the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, or if your partner or family members are concerned that you do, it is important to see your health care provider as soon as possible. Do not wait until your postpartum checkup. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will feel better and be able to enjoy your new family. Your health care provider most likely will ask questions about your signs and symptoms. If your health care provider determines that you have postpartum depression, you will work together to find the best treatment options to relieve your symptoms. Depression can be treated with medications called antidepressants. Talk therapy also is used to treat depression, often in combination with medication.

If you are breastfeeding and need to take an antidepressant, you should be aware that these medications can be transferred to babies during breastfeeding, although the amounts generally are very low. Breastfeeding has many benefits for both you and your baby. Deciding to take an antidepressant while breastfeeding involves weighing these benefits against the potential risks of your baby being exposed to the medication in your breast milk. It is best to discuss this decision with your health care provider and with your baby’s pediatrician or health care provider.