Postpartum Complications Can Cause Painful, Even Fatal Physical Problems

This can temporarily affect a mother’s lifestyle or responsibilities or permanently impact her physical health and well-being.
Dec 4, 2020
Postpartum Complications Can Cause Painful, Even Fatal Physical ProblemsPostpartum Complications Can Cause Painful, Even Fatal Physical Problems
3 reasons
Mothers can be placed on bed rest This reduces a woman's ability to work, care for other children, or even complete basic tasks.
Being placed on bed rest is a common occurrence during pregnancy and can result from a variety of conditions. High blood pressure, cervical changes, vaginal bleeding, premature labor, poor fetal development, gestational diabetes, and placenta complications are just a few of the conditions that may lead to a woman being placed on bed rest for as long as several months. Bed rest is prescribed to thousands of women each year. Its severity can range from simply taking it easy to literally limiting women to their beds for months on end. One woman, for instance, was put on bed rest for several months when she already had a 3-year-old daughter. Her husband was forced to quit his full-time job in order to take care of them both. Confined to the couch or the bed, the woman told NPR: "I wouldn't even get my own glasses of water. So I like to say that 'I was on bed rest, and he was on house arrest,' because he really couldn't leave either."
Wounds can become infected, and other complications can be severe. Occurrences of serious complications during childbirth are rising in the U.S. and can threaten the lives of both mother and child.
Bacteria that are typically active in the vagina before pregnancy can cause an infection in open wounds after a mother delivers her baby. This bacteria can affect the uterus and areas around the uterus. There is typically a low chance of developing these infections unless the woman is young and there is an unscheduled cesarean, or a long delivery with excessive bleeding. About one in three women deliver their babies via C-section. Of those women, as many as 18% will go on to develop chronic pain from the scar tissue resulting from that surgery. One young mother lost nearly half her body's blood during her c-section. After a week in the hospital, she thought the worst was over, but she went on to develop chronic pain around the scar tissue where the incision was made. Common complications during childbirth include perineal tears (when the area between the vagina and the anus tears or is surgically cut), excessive bleeding, perinatal asphyxia (when the child does not get enough oxygen), and abnormal heart rate of the baby. Many of these conditions also go unmonitored after childbirth because women are so focused on their child's health that they neglect their own. One study found that as many as 40% of women don't go to their own doctor's appointment check-up after giving birth. Kristen Terlizzi, who cofounded the National Accreta Foundation, had her uterus, appendix, and part of her bladder removed in 2014 because of a life-threatening placenta condition. “There’s this misconception that these complications are rare,” she told ProPublica. “And we [women] get brushed off — ‘The risk is not a big deal.’ But it is.” A 2017 investigation from ProPublica found that serious complications during childbirth in the U.S. were "skyrocketing." More than 50,000 women suffer severe complications each year—a number that has doubled since the 1990s. Women who survive severe complications often deal with long-term consequences such as severe pain, the inability to give birth again, and intense trauma. Emergency hysterectomies, for instance, have risen 60%. Not only is a hysterectomy an invasive surgery with a potentially long recovery time, but it renders women unable to get pregnant again. In 2014 alone, doctors in the U.S. had to carry out 4,000 emergency hysterectomies.
They can die. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized country.
Kameleon007, iStock by Getty
In the United States, approximately 700 women die each year as a result of complications from child birth. This rate has been decreasing by approximately 38% annually over the last 20 years, but it remains high, especially for women of color. And the rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. is higher than that of any other industrialized country. Women are advised to monitor themselves post-childbirth for warning signs of blood clots, infections, and hemorrhage, which can be potentially life-threatening. Some of the complications during pregnancy and childbirth—such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes—put women at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke throughout the rest of their lives. "Both of these conditions are associated with basically a doubling in their lifelong risk for cardiovascular disease," Dr. Lisa Hollier, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told NPR. Severe complications—such as kidney, heart, or liver failure; bleeding in the brain or long-term comas—can also be fatal for mothers.
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Bed Rest During Pregnancy

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