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Published on March 23, 2021

mother holding her crying son

What Moms Need to Know About the Postpartum Period

The blessing of a newborn baby is reason to celebrate, but some new moms may not realize the physical conditions that can accompany childbirth.

Even in a normal delivery, a woman’s body experiences a certain degree of trauma, which can lead to a number of treatable postpartum conditions:

  • Urinary issues and infection
  • Painful vaginal tears and injuries
  • Breast infection (mastitis) as well as other breastfeeding difficulties

“One main idea all moms-to-be should realize is that their pregnancy and birth is unique – it’s not going to be like your best friend’s, your mom’s or your aunt’s delivery,” said Jacob Thomas, MD, Avera Medical Group OB/GYN specialist. "If troublesome symptoms occur, don’t hesitate to contact your provider. You don’t have to wait until your follow-up appointment."

One example is urinary tract infection happens in an estimated 2 to 4% of all deliveries. This can leave you with symptoms such as painful urination, cloudy or foul smelling urine, or difficulty emptying your bladder and can be quickly resolved with antibiotics.

“It’s important to recognize and report symptoms like this right away, so we can get you on track to feeling better sooner than later,” Thomas said.

Understanding the Fourth Trimester

The months after your child’s birth, sometimes called the fourth trimester, are often spent getting to know your baby, but after-birth care for moms is important. While the term “postpartum” often focuses on behavioral health issues related to depression and anxiety, pregnant women and new moms should not overlook the physical realities of this time after delivery.

“Big changes come to a woman’s body when she gives birth, and postpartum wellness should be a big part of the care she receives,” said Avera Medical Group Urogynecologist Matthew Barker, MD. “If there are injuries or complications, we need to identify and treat them early, so they can get back to normal in a timely manner. Some of these problems show up right away, and others do not.”

New moms who deliver by C-section usually have follow-up appointments about two weeks after delivery. That timeline is the same for patients who have more severe tears during vaginal births. Women who experienced a vaginal delivery without complications often see their OB provider about six weeks after the baby is born.

But pain or other symptoms can be ongoing – even after these early follow-up appointments.

Specialized Help for Postpartum Symptoms

Postpartum trauma should be addressed within the first few weeks after delivery. One in 10 women experience pelvic floor symptoms in the first six months after pregnancy and delivery. A specialized Postpartum Wellness Program at Avera Medical Group Urogynecology diagnoses and treats ongoing pelvic floor disorders and helps women prevent more serious symptoms.

This clinic provides care for symptoms including:

  • Wound breakdown
  • Accidental loss of gas and stool
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Third- and fourth-degree obstetrical tears
  • Obstetrical fistulas
  • Postpartum urinary retention
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Pelvic pain

Evaluation through the Postpartum Wellness Program provides access to a variety of specialists including a fellowship-trained urogynecologist, colorectal surgeon, pelvic floor physical therapists, wound care specialists, women’s health psychologist, and sexual therapist.

“We will assess healing and the function of various systems in that part of a patient’s body, and it could include CT or MRI imaging if needed,” said Barker. Treatments may include physical therapy, dietary recommendations, medications, specialized wound care or surgical intervention.

Postpartum Care and Breastfeeding

Educating moms on the basics of latching on and positioning can help them when it comes to breastfeeding their newborns.

Among breastfeeding complications are swelling, redness or a breast infection, known as mastitis.

“An important point is that moms keep feeding with the affected breast, as that can actually help to reduce these conditions,” said Thomas. Avera has lactation program specialists who can assist moms with breastfeeding concerns.

Thomas stressed that good communication with your provider up to – and past – delivery will help you get answers quickly.

If you are having any issues, call your OB provider or your primary care provider to discuss any questions you have.

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