Throughout your pregnancy, you’re checked for signs that everything’s going right. Your blood. Your urine. Your glucose levels. Each time you go to the doctor, you’re poked and prodded and asked to pee in a cup, to make sure that you and your growing baby are healthy.
After you deliver, everything’s supposed to go back to normal, right?
Not always. Even after your baby is born, you’re still at risk for complications. New moms can suffer from postpartum depression, infections in the urinary tract, excessive bleeding, incontinence, and mastitis (an inflammation of the breast).
One rare but potentially fatal condition, postpartum preeclampsia, affects about 600 moms a year. “The scary part of postpartum preeclampsia is the delay that can occur between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis, which means a serious illness can become life-threatening,” says Ira Bernstein, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
High blood pressure after 20 weeks into your pregnancy, preeclampsia during a prior pregnancy, and obesity can put you at an increased risk. Many women don’t show any signs during pregnancy, but have severe headaches, swelling, and blurred vision after giving birth.
Nikki Walton, who blogs at CurlyNikki.com, recently delivered a healthy baby boy. She’d even been discharged early from the hospital. But a debilitating headache and swelling in her ankles sent her back to the emergency room just a few days after giving birth.
Read Nikki’s scary story here.
Postpartum preeclampsia only occurs in 5.7% of new moms–but can lead to seizures and even death, if left untreated. Know the signs (from Parents Magazine):
- Blood pressure of 140/90 or higher
- Excess protein in the urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe headache
- Abdominal pain, especially under the ribs on the right side
- Very little urine output
- Sudden weigh gain (more than 2 pounds a week)
- Sudden shortness of breath
If you experience any of these symptoms, get in contact with your doctor ASAP–it could save your life.