5 Conditions Black Women Need To Watch Out For After Giving Birth


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April 11-17 is Black Maternal Health Week. Be informed. Be your best advocate. – Team Lifestyle

Giving birth is one of the riskiest things a woman can do, especially when she’s Black. After making it past labor and delivery, it may seem like the hardest part is over, but that’s not the case for some new mothers. Recurring headlines tell the story of Black women who go home after delivering their baby but end up back in the hospital or dying due to complications.

Since this is such a common occurrence, it’s imperative that women are aware of the signs that something may not be right postpartum. We spoke to Tiffany Bates, a board-certified OB-GYN and Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, to share five things women should look out for postdelivery.

Postpartum Preeclampsia

Bates says a common condition to be aware of is postpartum preeclampsia, which affects around 0.3% to 27.5% of women, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“Postpartum preeclampsia is the condition that develops after delivery, and it gets diagnosed when you have high blood pressure and excess protein in your urine,” says Bates. “I’m sure you’ve heard of preeclampsia, which is very similar, but that typically develops during pregnancy and most of the time resolves with [the] birth of the baby.”

Some signs and symptoms to be aware of include severe headaches, high blood pressure, changes in vision, and pain in the upper belly area. 

“It requires prompt treatment, and if left untreated, it can lead to seizures or eclampsia and other serious complications,” Bates warns.

Postpartum Hemorrhage

Bleeding after giving birth is usually normal, especially in the first few days. However, when the bleeding is heavy, you could be experiencing postpartum hemorrhage.

“It usually occurs within 24 hours of delivery, but it can happen as late as up to 12 weeks postpartum,” says Bates. “And this is regardless of whether you had a vaginal delivery or a cesarean.”

Bates adds that a sign that you may be experiencing postpartum hemorrhage is soaking through two pads in one hour for up to one or two hours. Other symptoms accompanying the bleeding include low blood pressure, dizziness, increased heart rate, or blurred vision. Feeling like you want to faint is another sign.

“Your skin can become clammy or pale depending on skin tone, and you can also experience worsening abdominal or pelvic pain,” Bates adds.

Postpartum Endometritis

Postpartum endometritis is an infection that impacts a woman’s uterus. It’s also one of the most common infections that can occur after giving birth, according to Bates. A risk factor for developing this infection is having an infection during the labor and delivery process. An example Bates provides is chorioamnionitis–an infection often originating from the cervical and vaginal area. 

“It’s more common if you have a C-section, if your water was broken for a prolonged period of time, or you were positive for a bacteria called group B, streptococcus,” she says.

Some symptoms to watch out for post-delivery include worsening pelvic pain, fever, constipation, chills, and body aches. Additionally, increased vaginal bleeding or foul-smelling vaginal discharge can raise red flags too.

Mastitis 

An infection like mastitis can sometimes cause inflammation or swelling in the breast. Individuals who develop this condition may experience red, hard, and swollen breasts. Other accompanying signs and symptoms are hard lumps in the breast and flu-like symptoms.

“Anybody can get mastitis, but it’s most common in women and people assigned female at birth who breastfeed or chest feed,” Bates says. 

She continues, “This tends to happen in women who have hyperlactation or an oversupply of milk, so that’s something that you’d want to call your doctor and discuss as well.”

Postpartum Mood Disorders

Many women experience postpartum depression after bringing a new life into the world. 

“Everybody knows having a baby is this big life-changing experience, and it’s a huge transition for everyone, typically filled with many moments of excitement and joy, but also extreme exhaustion,” Bates says.

That said, it’s important to know when the moods transition from the blues to something more severe. The baby blues are hormonal changes new moms experience that can create anxious feelings and crying, but it typically only lasts two weeks. Some characteristics of postpartum mood disorder, however, are feeling depressed, struggling to concentrate, trouble sleeping, and shifts in appetite. When left untreated, the disorder can disrupt a mother’s ability to care for herself and her child and impact the bonding period.

If you’re struggling with some of the mentioned symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider about it. 

Bates says that healthcare providers screen for postpartum mood disorder by using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The scale is comprised of 10 questions related to symptoms of depression, such as feeling unhappy, anxious, or guilty.

“You have to be honest when you take this depression screen. If we don’t know, we don’t know, and it’s better just to be completely frank and transparent with your OB-GYN or healthcare providers so that we can help you,” Bates explains.

Postpartum mood disorders affect 6.5% to 20% of women, so while it may feel lonely and isolating, it’s not abnormal. 

“It’s important to know that this is very common,” Bates notes. “You’re not alone, it’s not your fault, and there are things out there to help you manage this and help you feel better.”



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