Saturday, December 28, 2013

Postpartum Complications: They Aren't Always About Depression

As a first time mom-to-be, the biggest question in your head is which crib will look prettier in the nursery? The wooden one or the white one? I'm sure you're also having trouble picking out only seven of the ten baby outfits to buy!

But, if you're a single mom, sadly your situation probably goes a little more like this: "Will I have the money to buy a stroller and car seat before the baby is born?" "If I was having a boy, I wouldn't mind so much that I am unable to buy cute baby outfits."

All the information online for pregnant women seems to be about taking care of yourself during pregnancy. Eating healthy, exercising, writing a birth plan, hiring a doula; but does anyone ever prepare you for the physical complications you may face after? A good gynecologist may do this, but don't even depend on that. Family members and friends are so proud of you because you made it through the delivery; they leave you on your own and say everything is back to normal now. But, pay special attention to the small signs telling you it isn't.

If you are a single mom, the best thing you can do for you and your baby is set up a support team before the baby arrives. Not every woman's body naturally falls back into its pre-pregnancy state. As I found out too late, Postpartum thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, and postpartum depression are way too common. Unfortunately, your gynecologist may never make you aware of these possibilities. If you develop one of these postpartum complications, you may not even recognize it; a strong support person will notice the things you miss.

Choosing a support person is like a game of "Red Rover": deciding who you want on your team. The person you pick will ultimately make you stronger or weaker. The only difference is your choice in "Red Rover" results in merely a win or loss; your choice for a support person effects much more.

For instance, it may not be wise to choose the person who sits through an entire television show and the next day cannot remember anything they watched! You may also want to pass on the family member who suggested the possibility of a miscarriage after learning of your pregnancy. Someone who is hardheaded and makes quick assumptions based on their own knowledge or lack thereof (ignorance) will only want to fight during a crisis.

Characteristics of a strong support person are someone who is smart, insightful, researches things, assertive, wants you to succeed, listens, encourages you to face your fears, and takes charge. A strong support person also seeks to understand and will hear what you are saying without making their own assumptions. A great support person would be someone who thinks for himself and tends to question those in authority rather than blindly accepting something at face value.

I know you have wanted to be a mother all your life; you had that beautiful baby for a reason. So you could raise her, of course! I want to insure you can do just that! Here are some of the symptoms both you and your support person should watch for which may indicate a postpartum hormone imbalance or thyroid problem:

• INSOMNIA (Waking up many times during the night, trouble falling asleep initially, trouble getting back to sleep, or waking early, suddenly inability to take naps anymore. Before you were pregnant, it was normal to sleep the whole night through without waking. As long as your baby isn't the one waking you up in the night, that is still considered normal! Something else besides your baby must be causing you to wake up- and that means something isn't right.)

• Frequent urination (don't write this off thinking it is just a bladder infection)

• Night sweating (Waking up drenched in sweat)

• Inability to tolerate the cold (Inability to get warm with many blankets, need more winter jackets than those around you in cold weather and still cold, freezing feet at night, always seem to be colder than those around you. Pay extra attention to this if you used to feel fine without a jacket in 45 degree weather)

• Allergies (morning sneezing, runny nose, etc.)

• Pressure in neck (may feel like swollen glands)

• Neck is tender when someone touches it

• Lose postpartum weight extremely fast or just rapid weight loss without dieting

• Night sweating (Waking up drenched in sweat)

 Dry hair (you wonder if you need a new Chi since it isn't making your hair smooth anymore. Here is a clue: IT'S NOT THE CHI!)

• Skin suddenly becomes very dry and starts peeling

• Hair loss (Women generally lose hair postpartum. If you are aware of that fact and have a gut feeling you are losing way too much, don't ignore it.) Especially if you are losing so much you're getting bald spots! Don't be reassured by your naive family member who tells you its normal; she and your 75 year old aunt have those bald spots, too.

• Diarrhea


• Bruises

• Memory loss (Continually talking about your baby while calling her another family member's name throughout the course of a day is a big clue! Although this may also be a sign of sleep deprivation.)

• Frequent sore throats

• Anxiety

• Depression

• Constant worry about the baby

• Unusually long or short menstrual cycles

• Overly emotional

• Pain behind the eyes

• Swollen cheeks

• Gaining weight while exercising and eating right

• Trouble swallowing

• Brain fog

• Trouble making decisions

• Hoarse voice

If you are experiencing any of those symptoms and have a gut feeling something isn't quite right, don't question what you ate for dinner! Make an immediate appointment with a gynecologist you trust. (Please don't try to treat the imbalance yourself; you don't know what hormone your body is definitely lacking or in oversupply. This could very easily make things worse.) What should you tell the gynecologist during your visit? Ask if they are skilled in treating thyroid disorders: even slight ones! Insist on full thyroid blood tests, an uptake scan, and hormone testing. The scan is important because your blood tests won't always show an abnormality.

What is the next step? If your gynecologist tells you everything is normal, ask for a referral to an endocrinologist. Your blood tests can show your thyroid is within normal levels but the standard levels may not be your norm. A good endocrinologist will acknowledge your symptoms along with your test results. I would also advise asking for an antidepressant medication to rule out postpartum depression.

Don't listen to anyone who tells you just wait to see a doctor until you have insurance coverage; would you wait to take your baby to the doctor if she was sick? Hormone imbalances and thyroid problems are not to be taken lightly; the symptoms they cause are many and can quickly escalate. Get together with your support person and find a way for you to see the doctor now; the more sleep deprived you become, the less clearer your thinking will be. Every difficult situation has a creative solution.

Sleep loss should not be brushed off; sometimes the remedy isn't as easy as counting sheep! Sleep is necessary for your mental and physical health. It is also true a postpartum hormone imbalance or thyroid problem can make it impossible for you to sleep nights at a time! Leave the support people behind who don't believe something is possible just because they have never heard of it happening to anyone they know. Especially if they don't take the time or make the effort to do the research to find out if it is possible! Ignorance is egotistical and can easily hinder your health and future!

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