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Your Postpartum Health – S1 E16

Bringing a new baby into this world is a lot of work. And while you take care of your little one, your own health is just as important. Knowing the warning signs for postpartum health complications can help you take care of your physical and mental health as you enter this new stage of life.

Heidi Christensen, the Maternal Health Innovation Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services, joins host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez to share what new moms should know about postpartum health complications and when it’s time to call the doctor.

Podcast Resources:
CDC Hear Her
Maternal Health Resources
Guest: Heidi Christensen
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Heidi Christensen is the Maternal Health Innovation Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. We all have a million parenting questions. You are not alone, but don’t worry,

[00:00:24] you’ve come to the right place. From pregnancy to toddlerhood, we are here to give you [00:00:30] expert advice, helpful tips, and tricks, and some assurance that you really are doing a great job.

[00:00:44] Thank you for joining us for this episode of The Parenting Brief. For expecting mothers, there’s a huge focus on your health during pregnancy. There are constant checkups and monitoring to make sure both you and your growing baby are healthy. But once that baby comes, [00:01:00] it feels like there is a quick shift from your health to baby.

[00:01:03] Yet taking care of your own well-being following the birth of your baby is critical. Giving birth takes a major toll on your body, regardless if you bring your baby into this world through vaginal delivery or a cesarean. Rest and recovery should be your priority alongside taking care of your baby. And knowing the signs of postpartum complications can help you, your partner and your support system, identify and respond to potential health problems [00:01:30] quickly.

[00:01:30] So today we’ll walk you through the warning signs of postpartum complications, potential risk factors, and when you should contact your doctor.

[00:01:43] To help us understand postpartum warning signs and what new moms and their support people should be on the lookout for I’m joined today by Heidi Christensen. Heidi is the Maternal Health Innovation Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Thank you for joining us today, [00:02:00] Heidi.

[00:02:00] Heidi Christensen: Thank you.

[00:02:01] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: One of the confusing things about postpartum, at least for me, was that everything is a new experience. Even if you had more than one child, the experience is never the same. So it was really hard to determine what was considered normal and what I should be worried about because nothing actually felt normal.

[00:02:20] So it was really hard to be like, oh yeah, this is totally normal. Or, oh my gosh, I should ask my doctor about this. So when talking about postpartum warning [00:02:30] signs, what does that really mean? And what time period after giving birth, does this specifically relate to?

[00:02:37] Heidi Christensen: So when we’re talking about postpartum period, we’re really referring to the time post birth up to one year.

[00:02:42] Although some of the symptoms may start just prior to giving birth also. And postpartum warning signs refer to both physical and mental health complications that range from mild symptoms to life-threatening.

[00:02:55] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: You had said that they could even start before birth. How [00:03:00] far prior to birth to do some of those warning signs start?

[00:03:03] Heidi Christensen: Some of the warning signs that start while you’re pregnant, they’re referring to things like vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking during your pregnancy, the slowing of the baby’s movements or the baby stopping movement. So they’re really kind of referring to some of those things also on the mental health side of it, postpartum depression and anxiety can start while you’re pregnant, even though it’s called postpartum depression.

[00:03:28] And you think of it as being post-birth, [00:03:30] but it can start during your pregnant.

[00:03:32] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So what are those symptoms and warning signs of postpartum complications that moms and support people should be on the lookout for?

[00:03:40] Heidi Christensen: So the symptoms to really look out for, the term that gets used is the urgent maternal warning signs.

[00:03:47] So things like severe headaches that won’t go away and get worse over time, dizziness and fainting, thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, changes in your, vision, a fever of [00:04:00] 100.4 or higher and extreme swelling of hands and face. Trouble breathing, chest pain or fast heart beating, severe nausea and throwing up, not like morning sickness, but more severe than that. Severe belly pain that doesn’t go away.

[00:04:17] Like I said before, the baby is not moving or slowing down during pregnancy, the vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking during pregnancy, heavy vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking that smells bad after [00:04:30] pregnancy. Swelling or redness or pain in your legs. And just an overwhelming tiredness, but I know that last one, most new moms would be like, but I always feel this way. This is pretty extreme, but also, I mean while it’s very common to be tired, still look at that and monitor where that is for you, because if it’s really out of the norm for you, you should still be looking at that.

[00:04:55] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So if somebody is experiencing any of these warning signs or symptoms, [00:05:00] at what point should they notify their doctor?

[00:05:03] Heidi Christensen: That’s a really great question. Some of the symptoms are definitely more urgent than others. So things like if you’re having chest pain, obstructed breathing, or shortness of breath, seizures, thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else you really should call 9 1 1, or get yourself to the hospital as soon as possible.

[00:05:19] Those are definitely signs of more severe symptoms that can escalate quickly. And some of the other things, while they may also be severe are probably okay to just call [00:05:30] your physician, talk to them first, but really, truly you need to listen to yourself. So things like bleeding, and when they’re talking about bleeding, that’s soaking through a pad an hour or blood clots that are the size of an egg bigger.

[00:05:44] Incisions that aren’t healing, the swollen legs that are warm or painful to the touch. And when we’re talking about the headaches, they’re headaches, that just don’t seem to get better. That, you know, you take something and it’s not really working, or you’re starting to have vision changes. Those [00:06:00] are all serious signs that, you know, contact your healthcare provider,

[00:06:03] but if you really don’t feel like you’re getting the answers you need and listen to your body, and you know, if you still don’t feel like what they’re telling you is enough, go to the ER. Get attention. It’s much better to be told, nope, everything’s good, everything’s fine, than to wait too long to get to the hospital.

[00:06:21] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: I think that goes, we’ve had a couple of episodes in a couple of conversations where we’ve really talked about advocating for yourself or for your partner, because they [00:06:30] can be dismissed. And there are people who may not take it as seriously, or even like I was saying earlier, brushing it off like, oh, it’s totally normal.

[00:06:38] Or that happened to me and I was fine. And really becoming your own advocate, you know, speaking up until somebody listens to those concerns.

[00:06:48] Heidi Christensen: Absolutely. I mean, it’s normal to feel tired and have pain after giving birth, but you know your body the best. And if something just doesn’t feel right and it’s worrying you, talk to your doctor, see a [00:07:00] physician, and you will probably get a lot of people telling you, oh, this is normal.

[00:07:03] This is normal. But you know yourself, advocate for yourself. And those who have friends and family, who’ve just given birth, definitely be supportive of what they’re saying, listen to her and really help her advocate for herself also.

[00:07:17] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So some of that, I mean, for a lot of mamas, as soon as that baby is born, that focus immediately goes from you and your care and your doctor’s appointments all to the baby.

[00:07:27] And we talk about, you know, tracking baby’s [00:07:30] feedings and diaper changes and sleeping. And I think what you had said in regards to even tracking mom and what’s taking place there is equally as important. It doesn’t need to all shift to that baby. So why is that care for mom so important? And if those signs are missed, what are some of those implications?

[00:07:51] Heidi Christensen: Yeah, really important to help because some of the things is like with pain in your chest and shortness of breath and breathing, those things [00:08:00] might be minor. It might be nothing, but it also may be a sign that you have a blood clot in your lung, which is not uncommon after giving birth. The seizures can be things like preeclampsia and the bleeding may mean that you’re having an obstetric hemorrhage and

[00:08:18] those are just things that, you know, they’re little things that we don’t think, oh, well, I’m, I’m supposed to bleed, it’s not a big deal, but there’s excessive bleeding that can happen that can escalate very [00:08:30] quickly and become life-threatening. And if you don’t get the medical attention, you need quickly enough, it can possibly mean losing your life.

[00:08:39] Maternal deaths happen far too often. And there’s so many things we can do to prevent them. We just need to get care quicker.

[00:08:49] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Are there other specific risk factors that could play a role in these postpartum warning signs that increase that risk for moms, or is really that [00:09:00] risk the same for all moms

[00:09:02] who’ve just given birth.

[00:09:04] Heidi Christensen: Well, any mom can have these symptoms, even if they are healthy and have no other complications prior to birth, you can still have complications. However, if you have a chronic condition that does absolutely increase the likelihood that you may have complications after birth. So if you have issues with high blood pressure or diabetes, other heart conditions, those are [00:09:30] really good things to be looking at and making sure that your health care provider knows of your pre-existing conditions.

[00:09:37] And before you get pregnant, if you can really be able to manage those chronic conditions, your pregnancy will be healthier and your postpartum period will be much healthier, too. It doesn’t mean you can do all the perfect things and still have complications, but your risk does go up if you have pre-existing conditions.

[00:09:56] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So where can someone go for more information on postpartum [00:10:00] warning signs?

[00:10:01] Heidi Christensen: One of the best places the CDC just put out the Hear Her campaign to access their campaign it is And they have resources for moms, their support systems, communities, physicians. So, you know, there’s a little piece for everybody.

[00:10:25] It’s really wonderful. You can also access [00:10:30] and the maternal health page has resources, including the post-birth warning signs handout called save your lifethat A-1 a nursing organization puts out. It lists the same sorts of resources as the Hear Her campaign just in a different format. So whatever format works best for you is what you should use.

[00:10:51] Well, this

[00:10:52] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: has been so incredibly helpful. So thank you so much for all of your advice today, Heidi.

[00:10:57] Heidi Christensen: Thank you so much.[00:11:00]

[00:11:06] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: For helpful links and resources check out the show notes for this episode. And don’t forget to follow The Parenting Brief on your favorite podcast app. That way you’ll never miss a future episode. You can also pass the show along to the moms or expecting moms in your life. A little parenting help can go a long way until next time,

[00:11:25] this is Jessica. You’ve got this, Mom.[00:11:30] .

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