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Why it’s important to track your physical symptoms postpartum

Like postpartum mood changes, it’s important to track your physical symptoms too. Tracking how your body is feeling post birth can be easier than tracking your mental health. Unlike up and down moods, physical pain typically follows a more linear healing process. With every day and week from birth, you’ll notice that you’re feeling stronger and less sore.

That said, there is value in tracking physical symptoms because everyone’s healing timeline is different. “Especially if you have a provider who’s not super responsive, it can be helpful to track and rate your pain in the meantime. You may come to realize that you’ve rated your pain the same in the last seven days, which is something you can share with your provider,” Schott explains. 

Now let’s discuss the different physical symptoms you might experience postpartum and how to track them. 

Postpartum back pain

When you went into labor, your back did a tremendous amount of work. Now it’s supporting your whole body as you pick your baby up or do other daily activities. The core muscles that support the front of your body need to regain their strength. In the meantime, it’s typical for your back to hurt. 

“Your pelvic floor, which is the foundation of support for your back, is probably not doing a whole lot to help you because it’s healing. So your back muscles are just taking on so much,” Schott explains. 

In addition to that, you may have gotten an epidural which can lead to temporary back pain and a bruise on your back. 

Postpartum breast pain

Whether you breastfeed or not, your breasts will become engorged and swollen. While this is uncomfortable and can be painful, it’s normal. A few days after your baby is born, breast fullness can feel particularly uncomfortable as your milk first comes in, replacing colostrum. As your body learns to regulate how much milk your little one needs, this feeling should become less extreme over the coming days and weeks.

If you breastfeed, you may experience nipple pain from a plugged milk duct which can lead to a breast infection called mastitis. This condition, which affects up to 20% of breastfeeding women, can be prevented and treated. If you feel a hard lump in your breast that is sore and tender after a feeding, try a warm compress for a few minutes before the next feeding. You can also try gently massaging the lumps toward your nipple and nursing your baby more often to help unclog the duct. 

If one of your breasts is tender, warm, and hard, with a painful lump (as with blocked milk ducts), possibly with red streaks or patches, you might have mastitis. Many breastfeeding parents with mastitis feel like they have the flu. Mastitis can happen when a blocked milk duct doesn’t get unclogged, which leads to inflammation and swelling of the breast tissue. The breast tissue can become infected or the infection can start another way (from a cracked nipple, for example). Regular nursing, rest, massage, and brief warm compresses can help with this, but it is important to contact your healthcare provider as well. They might recommend an over the counter pain medication or antibiotic depending on your symptoms.

Pelvic floor issues

In the first couple of months postpartum, your pelvic floor will typically recover some of its strength naturally. “But as time goes on, and you’re feeling a lot of physical pressure any time you go for a walk, or pee every time you laugh, cough, or sneeze, those are all reasons to get support,” Schott explains. 

Talk to your provider about whether you should start pelvic floor strengthening at home or with a pelvic floor therapist. Whether you have a vaginal birth or C-section, anyone who carries a baby can be affected by the stress caused to their pelvic floor muscles. 

General Symptoms

After delivering a baby, it’s normal for your body to go through many physical changes. You may experience constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, hemorrhoids, vaginal bleeding and discharge, perineum soreness (due to vaginal tearing), and headaches. 

While these symptoms are considered to be normal, it’s important to track or pay attention to how you’re feeling and see a doctor if your symptoms are extreme and/or persistent.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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“Managing Plugged Ducts, Mastitis When Breastfeeding.” Mayo Clinic Health System, https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health

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