When you’re pregnant, you get used to regular medical checkups, but once you give birth, moms often forget we also need to see the doctor. We focus on our newborn’s well-being and schedule one pediatric visit after another. However, moms don’t give the same importance to postnatal care.
This can be a costly mistake. Babies are not the only ones who need checkups after birth. A Kaiser Permanente study found that mothers, like babies, require additional monitoring after giving birth. According to the study, women who are diagnosed with hypertension during pregnancy have an increased risk of high blood pressure in the postpartum year. This surprised me; until recently I thought that preeclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy) goes away after you gave birth.
This is more common than it seems. Please watch Todd Heiden’s story; his wife died days after giving birth. A friend of mine in Chile almost died after childbirth when her blood pressure skyrocketed. Both inspired me to share this information. Hopefully it will help at least one woman avoid complications after her baby is born and will make others aware of the importance of postnatal care for new moms.
“Hypertension after childbirth can be extremely dangerous if not detected and if treatment is not received,” says Dr. Michael J. Fassett, who is the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Chair, Medical Executive Committee Area Research Chair of Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center. “Women who have had high blood pressure caused by pregnancy (gestational hypertension or preeclampsia) should monitor their blood pressure three times a day for three days after delivery. If you see high pressure or the previously mentioned symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. With proper evaluation and treatment can prevent serious complications such as stroke, ruptured liver or death.”
Keep in mind that blood pressure over 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is considered hypertension.
When to call your doctor after giving birth
Dr. Fassett says there are different symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia that warrant immediate medical attention:
- Severe headache that does not go away with acetaminophen (or paracetamol)
- Severe pain in the stomach area under the ribs
- Vision problems, such as blurred vision or light sensitivity
- Increased swelling of the legs, or swelling of the hands or face.
Among pregnant women in the United States, 5 to 8% develop preeclampsia. Even if you have not had high blood pressure or complications during your pregnancy, Dr. Fassett advises that after giving birth, mothers gradually return to normal activities, walk around, and avoid heavy lifting. “It is always advisable to consult with your doctor about how to take care of herself after childbirth. Your doctor will tell you how to care for your body as it recovers,” explains Fassett.
Also, watch out for postpartum fever or excessive bleeding. If you do not feel well or notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, always consult a doctor. Don’t feel that your questions are silly or you’re worrying too much. Your health is too important and every minute counts if you suffer a serious complication. If it were your baby, wouldn’t your call the doctor immediately?