Postpartum Red Flags

Posted on: February 14, 2022 | Body, education, Health, Information, Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders

For the first time in weeks, the sun emerged in a cloudless cerulean sky, the winds were quiet, and the air teased the scents of Spring. Claudia felt a sprig of energy. At 4 weeks postpartum, Claudia was feeling good. She was happier and her body, while still not her original, was slowly finding its way back. Claudia nestled Evyn into the stroller and began a brisk walk around her neighborhood. Once back home, she noticed that her postpartum bleeding had changed from the drying dark brown to a bright red again. ‘OH NO! What happened?!’ Claudia wondered. She felt fine, just a little sore in the pelvic and abdomen areas. She ran through the postpartum red flags that her provider and doulas advised her about in her head. ‘Bleeding was one of them, but what were the specifics?’ She pondered. 

Painful Urination

That first trip to the potty postpartum is a doozy. There’s soreness, there’s uncertainty, there’s the thoughts of “what parts of my body will I leave in the toilet”. Childbirth is a natural yet wild ride for the body. Urination that is painful or stinging is something to take notice of. Due to the sensitivity of this area of the body, infections can come more frequently. Taking know if tearing or an episiotomy occurred. 

Patting after using the restroom instead of wiping, keeps with the sensitivity. Using padsicles (maxi pad soaked with witch hazel) to cool the perineum. Peri-bottles filled with warm water allow for soothing during and after urination. You know your body best, if something feels painful, irritated, or ‘not right’, most likely it is. Reach out to your chosen healthcare provider for guidance on reassurance, validation, and guidance. 

Postpartum Red Flag: Heavy Bleeding

Postpartum bleeding is caused by the body continuing to heal and expels uterine lining, much like that of a menstrual cycle. The body clears itself from the empty womb. Whether one has had a cesarean birth or a vaginal birth, this bleeding will occur and can be expected to last 3-6 weeks postpartum. Listening to the body and knowing your body will be a tool to know if there’s a postpartum red flag: 

  • Bleeding through a pad in an hour  
  • Passing blood clots bigger than a half-dollar
  • Bright red blood, continuously (not ceasing or darkening as the weeks go on)

Heaving bleeding is a postpartum red flag and can be an indication of hemorrhaging and/or postpartum eclampsia. Avoid inserting anything into the vagina while postpartum bleeding, this can create an environment for infection while the body is healing. This includes tampons, sex, douches, etc. Please consult with your preferred provider for care. 

Postpartum Red Flag: Fever

Another one of postpartum red flags is a persistent fever. Fevers are the body’s natural way of fighting an infection. Therefore if a fever is emerging, take notice. Fevers can also be a sign and symptom of postpartum eclampsia. Temperatures can rise during childbirth and the postpartum period, as the body and hormones are finding their way back to balance. A fever over 100 degrees is one to take notice of. First check off the boxes of taking a hot shower/bath, being outside, exercising and evaluate your next steps. Rest, hydrate, take over-the-counter medications, and contact your provider if necessary.

Postpartum Red Flag: Excessive Worry

In the postpartum period there is a level of worry that naturally sweeps over us. “Is the baby okay?”, “Am I doing this right?”, and so on. There’s a line that crosses with the worrying where it can become excessive and impact the quality of life for the birthing person and relationships. This is another postpartum red flag. Excessive worrying can be a sign and symptom of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (or PMAD) One-in-seven birthing individuals will experience a PMAD, and one-in-seven partners will experience a PMAD. While being knowledgeable and having support are keys to keeping worry, anxiety, and depression at a distance, rest and nourishment are the final pieces to the postpartum puzzle. 
If you feel in the trenches of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, first know that you are not alone. Second, know that there are resources such as Postpartum Support International. Third, reach out for support ASAP! These disorders do not discriminate and can surface seemingly out of nowhere. 

Hanging up the phone with her care team, Claudia felt relieved. She was right to remember that bleeding was one of the postpartum red flags that her doulas stated. Her body was still in the healing and recovering process, and most likely wasn’t ready for her 2-mile trek around her hood. “There’s a reason they say 6 weeks to recover Claud.” She scolded herself.  “We’ll have to settle for enjoying the beautiful days with slower, shorter walks for now, right EvyBug?” Claudia expressed cuddling.