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Now the baby is here. Most likely, your labor and birth did not proceed as expected. The first eight weeks after childbirth is full of joy and wonder at the new baby, but is often mixed with intense pressures on you as you care for your newborn — and perhaps older children — while recovering physically and emotionally from the birth experience.

There are many complications that can occur in the six to eight weeks — or even up to a year or more — following a birth. For instance, thyroid disease occurs in 5% of women in the year after giving birth. Other common problems are urinary and fecal incontinence, postpartum depression, pelvic pain, and dental problems.

Unfortunately, little research has been conducted on complications that occur during the postpartum period. In fact, many states do not even collect data about postpartum complications at all. is advocating for stronger data collection laws on the national and state levels, as well as more research on the prevalence of postpartum complications and the relationship between postpartum complications and the stress on the body during pregnancy and birth.

While maternal deaths from pregnancy and childbirth are rare in the United States (11.8 deaths per 100,000 births), the rate has not decreased in twenty years. In addition, the United States ranks only 20th among developed nations for maternal mortality. Another major concern is that black and Hispanic women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth at a much greater rate as compared to white women. New research also demonstrates that women 35 years old and over and women who receive no prenatal care are at much higher risk of death from maternal complications.

The CDC has also reported that most maternal deaths occur following birth, during the postpartum period. It is clear that doctors and hospital staff, especially emergency room personnel, need to focus more effort and understanding on women during the postpartum period.

Here is a list of some complications many women suffer during the postpartum period:

Autoimmune Conditions
Back Pain
Blood Transfusion
Breast Mastitis (JAMA April 2003)
Cesarean Complications
Dental Problems
Fecal Incontinence
Gallbladder problems
Heart Problems
Inability to Breastfeed
Painful Intercourse
Pelvic Trauma
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Prolapsed uterus
Retained Placenta
Skin Disorders
Thyroid Problems
Traumatic Birth
Urinary Incontinence
Urinary Retention
Vaginal Reconstruction
Vulva Pain

Every day in the United States, between 2 and 3 women die of maternal complications. For every death there are thousands of other women who suffer serious postpartum complications.

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