Wednesday 12 June 2024

5 Common Postpartum Conditions and How to Manage Them


The postpartum period, also known as the puerperium, refers to the first six weeks after giving birth. This time brings significant physical and emotional changes as your body recovers from pregnancy and childbirth. Along with the joys of welcoming a new baby, many women experience common health conditions during the postpartum period. Being aware of these potential issues and how to manage them will help you take care of both your newborn and yourself during this transition. This article explores some of the most common postpartum conditions and provides guidance on identification, testing if applicable, and treatment options to support your recovery.

1. Candida

New mothers are at an increased risk of developing candida overgrowth due to factors like antibiotic use, hormonal changes, and compromised immunity. But what is candida? Candida is a kind of yeast that usually lives in small quantitiesin places like the mouth, skin, digestive tract and vagina without issue. However, candida infection can occur when there is an overgrowth of this yeast, a condition also referred to as candidiasis or thrush. There are various types of candida infections:

• Oral thrush causes white lesions or plaques in the mouth and sometimes a loss of taste.
• Vaginal candidiasis leads to vaginal itching, burning and discharge.
• Breast and nipple candidiasis results in breast pain and flaky, shiny skin on the nipples.

If you suspect candida overgrowth, you should get a candida test to check for higher-than-normal levels through a swab, spit, stool or blood test. Once diagnosed, candida infections are normally easily treated with antifungal creams or medications like nystatin or fluconazole. 

2. Breast Engorgement

Breast engorgement is the swelling and fullness of the breasts due to increased milk production. It often occurs 3-5 days after delivery. To manage it, nurse frequently, apply cold compresses, and take ibuprofen. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.

3. Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is feeling depressed, anxious, irritable or hopeless after having a baby. Symptoms may include exhaustion, appetite changes, difficulty bonding with the baby and withdrawing from loved ones. Hormone changes after childbirth can contribute to postpartum depression along with factors like sleep deprivation and stress. If you are experiencing symptoms, speak to your doctor about treatment options such as therapy, support groups and antidepressants if needed. 

4. Postpartum Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding after birth, known as lochia, is normal and can last up to 6 weeks. Heavy bleeding with clots larger than a plum, saturating more than one pad per hour, or bright red bleeding after the first few days may indicate complications. Seek medical care if you have severe cramping or foul-smelling discharge as well. 

5. Postpartum Constipation

Constipation is common after delivery due to factors like dehydration, iron supplements, and anxiety/stress. Straining to pass hard, dry stools can be painful if you have haemorrhoids or perineal trauma. To relieve constipation, drink plenty of water, eat fibre-rich foods, exercise, and consider using a stool softener or laxative if recommended by your doctor.

The postpartum period brings an array of changes and potential health conditions as your body recovers from pregnancy and birth. Being aware of common concerns will allow you to identify issues early and take steps to feel better faster. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor if any symptoms concern you or don't resolve within a few weeks.

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