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Postpartum & Lactation Support

There is a postpartum period after every loss, and some will fall into the more "standard" definition of postpartum. This section covers postpartum and lactation support through the lens of PAIL.

Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and materials on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

Image by Sydney Sims

What does postpartum experience look like?

Your physical postpartum experience will differ depending on when your loss occurred, the birth experience, and your own body. These are some but not all of the postpartum experiences folks might have... The emotional and mental postpartum experience is also significant, partially from hormones as well as loss. Did you experience a symptom not noted here? Let us know - help us grow this list.

For an early 1st trimester loss (including chemical):

  • Heavy bleeding

  • Cramping

  • Passing of clots

  • Depression, anxiety, sadness, guilt

  • Depending on the time of loss, passing of placenta, sac, and umbilical cord

For a late 1st trimester loss:

  • Heavy bleeding and clots

  • Cramping

  • Passing of placenta, sac, fetus, and umbilical cord

  • Hair loss

  • Depression, anxiety, sadness, guilt

For a 2nd trimester loss and beyond:

  • Milk will come in - leaking breasts

    • Milk may not come in for early 2nd-trimester loss​

  • Painful, swollen, engorged breasts and nipples

  • Hot flashes and night sweating

  • Weight loss

  • Big swings in emotions

  • Bleeding and passing of lochia (amount will vary depending on birth)

  • Swollen peritoneum

  • Hemmoriods

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty pooping and peeing

  • Incontinence and diarrhea

  • Acne

  • Hair loss

Signs to watch out for (AT ANY STAGE) - call your doctor:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Pus or intense redness around C-section scar

  • Blurry vision

  • High blood pressure

  • Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself or others

Postpartum Supports

What supports did you find helpful? What supports did you wish you knew about? Add yours to the growing list.

As many as 1 in 7 moms (1 in 10 dads/ non-birthing partner) experience symptoms of depression and anxiety during the postpartum period. People of every age, income level, race and culture can develop Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) during pregnancy and within the first year after delivery. This tool can help track your symptoms and discuss them with your healthcare provider. Being your own advocate is okay and you deserve to be well.

Pelvic Floor PT

No matter when your loss occurred, or how long ago your loss occurred, pelvic floor physical therapy (PT) is always an option. The pelvic floor refers to the muscles that support your reproductive, colorectal, and urinary tracts,- including your bladder, uterus (female), and rectum. These muscles attach to your pelvic bones and wrap around the urethra and rectum to provide support. 

Pelvic floor physical therapy is physical therapy to help address dysfunction but also to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor PT can help with urinary and/or bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction or pain, pelvis prolapse, and post-operative care. Consider talking to your doctor/midwife about this option.

Most women with preeclampsia will deliver healthy babies and fully recover. However, some women will experience complications, several of which may be life-threatening. A woman’s condition can progress to severe preeclampsia, eclampsia, or HELLP syndrome quickly. Delivery, sometimes after a period of expectant management (“watchful waiting”), is a necessary intervention. Once delivered, mom still needs to receive care if she is experiencing high blood pressure and related preeclampsia symptoms.
It's important to know that delivery is not the cure for preeclampsia. Any woman can develop preeclampsia after her baby is born, whether she experienced high blood pressure during her pregnancy or not. Moms need to continue to monitor their health after delivery. Recognizing the warning signs can save your life.

When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents).

Grief is all the feelings you have when someone close to you dies. You may have a lot of feelings as you grieve. You may feel angry, sad, and confused. You and your partner may show your feelings differently. You and your family can get help as you grieve from your provider, a social worker, a grief counselor or a support group. Take care of yourself to help you heal. Your body and your emotions need time to recover after pregnancy. Find special ways for you and your family to remember your baby.

Lactation After Loss

Image by Phil

An organization to donate breast milk, 
at one of 31 member milk banks and their locations, and then call the one that is most convenient for you. Milk bank staff will guide you through the screening process. Once approved, you can then drop off your precious donation at a milk depot site or use overnight shipping at no cost to you. Your milk bank doesn’t have to be in your home state, as many work regionally and nationally.

Donating milk can be a special way to honor their baby as well as to help others, and many people have found that donating helps with their grief. Milk donation is not a choice that fits for every family. We honor your decision and respect that you are the expert on your family and know your situation best.

Breastmilk Jewelry

Breastmilk jewelry is a wonderful way to commemorate and honor your baby. Etsy has dozens of shops where you can get your own breastmilk jewelry. Here are a few others too:

Resources for mothers who are lactating and weaning after the loss of a child.

How to Stop Lactation

Approximately a 5-minute video created and produced by Maya Bolman, RN, IBCLC and Ann Witt, MD, IBCLC, FABM of Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio. November 2019.

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