A woman lies in bed with her baby and smiles. The baby appears asleep.
With help from pediatric nurses and other sources, moms will know what to watch for when returning home after delivery. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

I’ve been an OB nurse for many years but I always find there’s more to learn.

It’s truly exciting when we can provide mothers with new and timely information in the easiest possible way. This summer, I learned that a book we provide to our new mothers when they return home will soon be accompanied with video clips accessible by smartphone.

It will detail the signs and symptoms moms should watch for after they return home.

I’ve come across a few articles that detail what to watch for after you’ve had a baby and when you should contact your provider or an emergency department. These articles are often meant to remind nurses about the topics they should discuss with new mothers as they head home.

It’s a critical topic.

In the U.S., anywhere from 700 to 900 women die each year from issues related to pregnancy or childbirth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is one of the highest rates in countries with advanced health care.

These deaths are highest for black women and women who live in rural areas. And about 60 percent of the deaths are preventable, according to the CDC.

A recent study in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing identified the symptoms and signs that nurses should tell moms to watch for upon returning home after delivery.

Moms should also know about the causes related to these deaths and when to call for help.

In this case, there’s a useful acronym—POST:

  • Pain in the chest. Up to 25 percent of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth involve heart issues.
  • Obstructed breathing. This can also entail shortness of breath. It may indicate a blood clot.
  • Seizures. This could indicate eclampsia.
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby are signs of postpartum depression.

These are the most serious things to watch for. If you’re experiencing any of these POST symptoms, you should call 911 immediately.

Other signs, symptoms

There are additional signs and symptoms you should know about, but you can first call your OB provider to address them.

These include:

  • Bleeding. If you’re soaking though one pad an hour or experiencing blood clots larger than an egg or bigger, you should contact your OB provider. Bleeding is normal after you’ve had a baby, but not in this amount.
  • An incision that won’t heal. This could be a sign of infection.
  • A red or swollen leg that is painful to touch. This could be a sign of a blood clot.
  • A temperature of 100.4 or higher. This is another possible sign of infection.
  • A headache that doesn’t get better even after taking medicine. You should also be aware of a bad headache associated with vision changes. This could indicate high blood pressure or post-birth eclampsia.

If you experience these types of symptoms or you just don’t feel right, you should call your provider.

If you can’t reach your provider, however, you need to go to an emergency room. When you visit the emergency room, be sure to tell employees that you recently had a baby—and include the delivery date. It’s always important to provide specifics.

This issue hits home with me, because I remember the severe headache I experienced after my last baby. As it got worse and worse, I ended up going to the emergency department.

I stayed overnight in the hospital and had to be sent home on blood pressure medicine. That very night, my headache reached a level I’d never felt before. I told my husband how each heartbeat made it feel like my head was a cork about to explode off my body.

Thankfully, we went back to the hospital. My blood pressure became extremely high. I was soon admitted to the ICU and placed on magnesium sulfate to help control my post-baby preeclampsia. I considered myself fortunate, as I could have suffered a stroke given my severe blood pressure. I ended up in the ICU for five days.

I’m lucky I went to the hospital when I did and I consider myself fortunate that my baby could stay with me during that time.