Moms have a really bad habit of putting everyone else first. When it comes to keeping our families healthy, we rarely miss a kids’ pediatrician well visit, and if a little one gets sick? We move heaven and earth to make sure they feel better, ASAP. A husband goes down with the flu? We’re making (or buying…) organic chicken noodle soup and making sure he gets to the doctor. But when it comes to our own health….we can be pretty negligent.
From the moment we get pregnant, it’s easy to chalk up aches, pains, fatigue and other ailments to that catch-all diagnosis: “Being a mom.” “It’s called caregivers syndrome—you’re focused on the person you’re taking care of. You focus on their health and ignore your own,” says Dr. Darria Long, ER doctor, mom of two and author of national bestselling book Mom Hacks.
Not only is this an epidemic among mothers, it’s not doing us—or our families—any favors. “If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to be a mom in the way [you want to],” says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Health. Please don’t brush aside the symptoms below. In most cases, they won’t be anything serious, but getting medical treatment could make you feel better. And in rare cases, it could save your life.
Feeling parched when you’re running after toddlers or coaching your tween’s soccer team is normal. But if you’re thirsty (and peeing) all the time, it could be a sign of something more serious. “Get a checkup. It could be a symptom diabetes and the doctor will check your sugar,” says Dr. Goldberg.
Strange Neurologic Symptoms
Recently, actress (and mom) Selma Blair shed a light on multiple sclerosis by sharing her battle with the disease—one that Dr. Darria says is often diagnosed in women in their 20s and 30s. Symptoms include sporadic numbness or tingling in hands or legs, loss of bladder control and muscle weakness.
This is a hard one, because if you can show us a mom (especially with young kids) who isn’t tired a good deal of the time, we’d like to talk to her! But if you are so tired you can’t get out of bed and have no endurance, ask our doctor to evaluate you for anemia or thyroid, says Goldberg. “It’s just a few simple blood tests.”
Sudden Pressure In Your Chest
In younger woman without high cholesterol, Goldberg says heart attacks can be caused by an artery actually tearing. Symptoms include a sudden onset of pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, or feeling like you’re going to collapse. “If you have these symptoms, go to the hospital,” says Dr. Goldberg, adding that this phenomenon is being researched and may be related to hormonal changes post-pregnancy.
Anxiety and Depression
Did you know that postpartum depression and anxiety can develop years after having your children? “If you’re having constant anxiety, trouble getting out of bed…there is help with medication and significant help without medications. It’s so important to speak up and recognize that you are not alone,” says Dr. Darria.
Your Heart Skips a Beat
A little flutter or two is probably normal, says Dr. Goldberg. “But if you’re having several minutes or hours of a skipped or irregular heartbeat, get it checked out, especially if you feel short of breath or like you might faint.” Arrhythmias can be treated so you feel better.
“It’s always a good idea to know what our breasts feel like. If you notice painless or painful lumps, it could be an inflammatory change, or more rarely, an early sign of breast cancer,” says Dr. Darria. Although breast cancer is uncommon in young women, when it occurs, it is often more aggressive. Checking between mammograms could save your life.
Dizziness or Fainting
Younger women tend to have lower blood pressure, and if you are busy running after your family and forget to drink enough water, that can cause dehydration, lowering your blood pressure even more. The result? Dizziness and even fainting. “You don’t want to faint holding your baby or in another crucial moment,” says Dr. Goldberg.
If your period is super painful or lasts for ages, this could be a sign of endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, both of which have effective treatments, say Dr. Darria.
If you have pain or swelling along the thumb side of your hand, it can be de quervain’s syndrome, and if you have numbness in the hand or wrist, it could be carpal tunnel syndrome, says Dr. Darria. Both are common in new moms, due to breastfeeding, lifting babies and other rigors of early motherhood. An orthopedic hand surgeon can evaluate you and see if easy treatments like a split or cortisone shot could help, fast.
Bottom line? “Don’t wait,” says Dr. Goldberg. “It’s okay to find out it’s not diabetes, or it’s not heart disease…but the most important thing is that you get these symptoms checked out. It’s always better to be proactive.”