There are some aspects of postpartum recovery you’re probably (vaguely) ready for. The bleeding, the exhaustion, the soreness. But there are actually some pretty weird postpartum symptoms that might not be on your radar.
There were certainly a few STRANGE things (such as the postpartum chills!) that happened to my body after I had my son.
Most of the time, these are either related to postpartum bleeding, or a change in hormones. But, if you’ve never had a baby before, they can definitely take you by surprise!
So, I put together this list of strange postpartum symptoms for you to be on the lookout for (or reference) should you find yourself suddenly chilled, sweating buckets, or anything else in between.
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1. The postpartum chills
In the first few days of your postpartum life, you may feel extra cold and chilly. It was mid-February when I had my son, but I remember being bundled up at home in extra fluffy socks and a huge sweater.
The amount of blood loss you experience after you deliver may be to blame. The blood circulating through your veins is WARM, which is one way your body maintains its core temperature.
When you lose a substantial portion of that blood, you have a decrease in your entire systemic circulation, which results in a decrease in your body temperature. This can result in you feeling a bit colder because your circulation isn’t as great as it was pre-delivery.
Our bodies do a great job of actually creating extra storage of blood during pregnancy, in anticipation of the blood loss you will face during delivery.
In fact, some women experience up to a 50 percent increase in blood volume during pregnancy. Blood loss is still blood loss, and even with the additional blood your body has stored, many women are symptomatic.
2. Postpartum night sweats
On the other hand, instead of feeling chilly, you may be filling buckets of sweat! Because you have so much more blood and fluid circulating through your body while pregnant, once you deliver this extra liquid must go somewhere.
Some of it, as I’ve said, you’ll lose at delivery, but the rest will come out of you as either urine or sweat. You body’s sudden drop in hormone estrogen is also to blame in getting the sweat pouring and hot flashes, well, flashing.
You are also loaded up with extra IV fluids when you come to the hospital or birth center to deliver, so this compounds the problem even more. Actually, don’t be surprised if when you leave the hospital your feet are a bit more puffy than they were pre-delivery.
No worries though, most women find that in about a week, their swelling and sweating decreases dramatically. However postpartum night sweats can persist for a few months and still be considered normal.
3. Postpartum heart palpitations
This is another symptom you may feel in those first few days home from the hospital. Also due to the loss of blood, tachycardia (an increase in your heart rate) is common post-delivery.
Because the blood capacity of your circulatory system is lower, your heart pumps a bit faster to compensate for the decrease in volume. Many women report feeling their hearts race more so when changing positions or changing temperatures quickly (getting out of a hot shower).
If you experience light-headedness or dizziness, take a break and sit down. While this is common, it’s important to bring up to your doctor.
4. Postpartum hair loss
During pregnancy, you may realize that your hair changes texture, grows faster, or falls out less (and this isn’t just on your head!).
This is due to a dramatic increase in progesterone, which extends the growth phase of your hair, causing these changes. Once you deliver, however, your hair cycle regresses, and many of these hairs your body was holding onto shed. For most women, this usually happens 2-3 months after delivery, or longer for breastfeeding moms.
Unfortunately, sometimes this hair loss can be dramatic, coming out in clumps in the shower or on your brush. I used to joke that I never had to use Drano in our shower while I was pregnant, but a few months after I delivered, I was using it a few times a month!
Related: Why hire a postpartum doula?
5. Postpartum bleeding smell
Ok, I’m sorry but this needs to be brought up! You will smell different after you have a baby. It happens to almost every woman, regardless of whether you have a vaginal delivery or a c-section.
In a normal menstrual cycle (every month), your uterus grows a lining, and sheds if implantation of a fertilized egg does not occur (this is your period).
Well, this particular time, you never had that shedding. You grew a baby. So, unlike a regular period, postpartum bleeding is a bit different because this blood has been inside of you for 9 months.
And it’s going to smell horrible when it comes out of you.
There’s not much you can do, other than frequent hygiene, to help this issue. Change your pad a lot, take lots of showers (no baths), and prepare for the worst (jk, it’s really not that bad). 😉
Related: 40 Postpartum Essentials
6. Postpartum constipation
You may have heard horror stories about “the first poop” after you have a baby. Yep, they are true. It can be very difficult, and very painful using the bathroom for the first time, but there are things you can do to help make it a bit easier.
One tried but true method is making sure you are taking plenty of stool softeners from day 1. My personal favorite is Colace.
Another helpful tip: GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME. Don’t rush it, and no pushing! That will make things 100 times worse.
Also, water. Water fixes everything!
If you find yourself immensely constipated, and you’ve been sitting there for awhile, a glycerin suppository will almost always do the trick. They are super easy to use, and work like a charm!
And hold up! If you are still pregnant and having constipation issues, check out this article for some relief – a lot of the tips apply to postpartum, too!
7. Postpartum rectal pain or perineal pain
Along with having trouble using the bathroom, you may find yourself having rectal pain from time to time in the first few weeks postpartum. This may be due to a few different things.
Hemorrhoids are just as common during pregnancy, as they are in the postpartum period. A hemorrhoid is a swollen/inflamed vein in your rectum that sometimes protrudes out a bit from your bottom.
It can leave you with pain, itchiness and even some bleeding. Tucks pads, stool softeners, or good ole’ Preparation H can help.
Another type of rectal pain you may experience (that I personally had) can be due to pelvic shifting that occurs as your uterus is shrinking. This will come out of nowhere and feel like very sharp pelvic pressure. The best thing to do is to avoid being constipated, because that can make these pains way worse!
Oh! And make some padsicles! These little guys are like heaven on a painful perineum.
Related: How to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids Fast
8. Gas bubbles and gas pain postpartum
This is more common if you’ve had a C-section, but after delivery you may have gas bubbles that get trapped inside your abdomen. If you’ve ever had any type of abdominal surgery, you know what I’m talking about.
These bubbles can travel up your chest, and actually give you so much discomfort that you feel like you are having a heart attack!
Gas-X can help break up some of that air, and relieve the discomfort.
9. Postpartum itch
Yuck, no one likes to feel itchy down there. If you’ve had a vaginal tear from birth (which are very common), your doctor/midwife will stitch you up with dissolvable sutures at delivery.
These take some time to completely dissolve, but as they dissolve you may feel a bit itchy down there. It’s important to bring this up to your doctor, but if you are experiencing this after delivery with no odd discharge (this may signify a yeast infection), it’s most likely just your sutures.
I’ve actually got a whole article about postpartum itching down there <– so if this is you, get all the details over there!
Other postpartum symptoms and issues
1. Postpartum incontinence
Yup. It’s actually super common to pee your pants a little more often than you care to admit now that you’re postpartum. If it seems like every time you cough, laugh or sneeze you’re peeing, you are NOT alone.
And while this is totally normal, I’m joining in the narrative of pelvic floor experts everywhere to say IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!
Too many people think, Welp, I guess I’m just going leak pee now until forever. But there’s actually a lot you can do to reverse this. You see, postpartum incontinence is rooted in issues with the pelvic floor.
Check in with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
With my second baby, I sought out the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist right away and she told me that ALL mamas can benefit from a check-in with a pelvic floor PT after birth.
She told me that so many women come in with incontinence issues in their 50s and 60s that can all be traced back to a weakened pelvic floor after birth. Imagine avoiding that!
Start a postpartum fitness and strengthening program
If getting to a pelvic floor PT isn’t possible, there’s a number of online resources that can help. Basically, any exercise program targeted for postpartum women will have pelvic floor exercises.
Programs that are carefully designed can be used right after birth because they start with slow, gentle restrengthening.
The Juna App is a pregnancy and postpartum fitness and nutrition app that I’m currently using (and used during my pregnancy!). I loved that it helped me get started on rebuilding my core and pelvic floor literally days after I gave birth.
On the postpartum side, you get access to 6 weeks worth of pelvic floor restrengthening workouts, and then two more programs that build on that. You’ll also get weekly nutrition tips and recipes suggestions.
And I scored you guys a discount 😊 Code LIESEL gets you 20% off!
2. Breastfeeding obstacles
Okay, so breastfeeding and postpartum really do go hand in hand for a lot of mamas. The challenges and obstacles that many face in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding can really shape your postpartum experience.
I know I was blindsided by the learning curve of breastfeeding with my first. Even as a freaking labor and delivery nurse I was SERIOUSLY unprepared, and I feel like that had a lot to do with why I had such issues with low supply.
If you are having a hard time with breastfeeding I CANNOT stress enough the need to reach out and find support. Find in-person support groups for new and nursing mothers and get an appointment with a lactation consultant ASAP.
If you need something more on demand, online breastfeeding classes can teach you SO much and serve as a great reference guide. At just $29 the Milkology Breastfeeding Class is worth its weight in gold to help alleviate some of the breastfeeding stress and obstacles.
3. Postpartum anxiety
Raise your hand if you didn’t know postpartum anxiety was a thing? 🙋🏼♀️
I can honestly say, before I became educated on this diagnosis, I had never heard of it before!
And now, after having an amazing postpartum experience the 2nd go around….um yeah, I’m pretty sure I had this with my first! (at least to some degree!)
Sure, you hear about postpartum depression in the media, and your healthcare team talks to you A LOT about it upon discharge….But guess what?
Postpartum anxiety sometimes gets thrown to the wayside. OR gets grouped together as a form of postpartum depression. It’s true, you CAN exhibit symptoms of both, but many women who have true postpartum anxiety pass their depression scales.
This is a scary, lonely diagnosis, and I, for one, want to do something about screening for this MUCH earlier!
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:
- Constant worry
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Racing thoughts
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Inability to sit still
- Physical symptoms like dizziness
- Hot flashes and nausea
If this sounds like you, please reach out for help! Talk to a provider, your partner, a friend or other family member as a first step in your treatment process. Remember that often times this is the hardest step!
4. Newborn care and sleep
Again, this isn’t explicitly related to your postpartum symptoms per say, but challenges with newborn care and sleep can lead to a frazzled, exhausted and stressed out mama. And those symptoms are real.
There’s no magic answer or guide to every challenge with your newborn, but there are sources of support and resources out there that can help take away a LOT of the guesswork.
One thing I want you all to do? Get involved with a local new moms group! Many hospitals, pediatricians or community centers host them. And they may even be virtual! There’s nothing quite like bonding and learning tips and advice from other mamas that can truly empathize in real-time.
Also! Enroll in my FREE Newborn care miniseries (use the form above)! We go over tips, tricks, and advice related to baby sleep, feeding, health and hygiene, common obstacles, and more!
And if you want a one-stop all-inclusive resource, I put together the Newborn Basics Class with this in mind! It’s newly updated with video content and live demonstrations in every lesson. Plus you’ll get a handy eBook for easy reference.
Weird postpartum symptoms explained
What other odd changes have you discovered about your postpartum body? Tell me in the comments, I want to know! 😊
Happy Postpartum Life! 🙂