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Problems After Delivery of Your Baby
The days and weeks after your baby is born are known as the postpartum period. It lasts for 3 months after delivery. You can expect that your body will change as it returns to its nonpregnant condition. These changes are different for each person. For example, if you had heartburn while you were pregnant, it may go away after delivery. But other symptoms, such as hemorrhoids, could still cause problems after your baby is born.
Many minor postpartum problems can be managed at home. For example, home treatment is usually all that's needed to relieve mild discomfort from hemorrhoids or constipation. If you have a problem and your doctor gives you specific instructions to follow, be sure to follow those instructions.
It's common to need some time to get back to your normal activities. It's important to focus on your healing for the first 6 weeks. Start other activities slowly as you feel stronger. Ask your doctor when it's okay for you to have vaginal sex again. If you had any problems during your pregnancy or during labor or delivery, your doctor may give you more specific instructions about activities.
It's likely you won't have serious health problems after giving birth. But problems can happen. You may have more serious symptoms that you need to talk to your doctor or midwife about. Your symptoms may be related to:
- Postpartum hemorrhage. This is severe bleeding from childbirth or bleeding that causes other symptoms of too much blood loss. Symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage may include:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
- Feeling very tired or dizzy and lightheaded.
- A fast or irregular heartbeat.
- Infection. Symptoms may include:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness from an incision or wound.
- New or worse pain in your belly.
- Vaginal discharge that smells bad.
- Urinary problems, such as frequent or painful urination or blood in your urine.
- Blood clots. The risk of blood clots increases during and after pregnancy. Symptoms may include:
- Pain or swelling in your arm or leg. Or you may have warmth or redness or any change in color in your arm or leg. These are symptoms of a blood clot in your arm or leg (deep vein thrombosis).
- Sudden chest pain, trouble breathing, and coughing up blood. These are symptoms of a blood clot in your lung (pulmonary embolism).
- Preeclampsia. This usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after the baby is born. But in rare cases, preeclampsia may not show up until after childbirth. Symptoms of preeclampsia may include:
- Sudden swelling in your face, hands, or feet.
- Rapid weight gain—more than 2 lb (0.9 kg) a week.
- A severe headache.
- Vision problems such as blurred or double vision.
- Pain in the upper right belly.
- Peripartum cardiomyopathy. This problem may occur during late pregnancy or after childbirth. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, or feeling very tired.
- Postpartum depression. If you are tearful, sad, or anxious, or if you have big mood swings, talk to your doctor or midwife. You can also call the Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262). If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 right away.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Check Your Symptoms
The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.
- If you are transgender or nonbinary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
- If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
- If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
- Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
- Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
- Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, herbal remedies, or supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
- Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
- Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.
Try Home Treatment
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
- Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
- Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
- You feel very hot.
- It is likely one of the highest fevers you've ever had. High fevers are not that common, especially in adults.
With a moderate fever:
- You feel warm or hot.
- You know you have a fever.
With a mild fever:
- You may feel a little warm.
- You think you might have a fever, but you're not sure.
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth) temperature
- High: 104°F (40°C) and higher
- Moderate: 100.4°F (38°C) to 103.9°F (39.9°C)
- Mild: 100.3°F (37.9°C) and lower
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5°F (0.3°C) to 1°F (0.6°C) lower than an oral temperature.
- High: 105°F (40.6°C) and higher
- Moderate: 101.4°F (38.6°C) to 104.9°F (40.5°C)
- Mild: 101.3°F (38.5°C) and lower
Armpit (axillary) temperature
- High: 103°F (39.5°C) and higher
- Moderate: 99.4°F (37.4°C) to 102.9°F (39.4°C)
- Mild: 99.3°F (37.3°C) and lower
Blood in the stool can come from anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright red, reddish brown, or black like tar.
A little bit of bright red blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.
A large amount of blood in the stool may mean a more serious problem is present. For example, if there is a lot of blood in the stool, not just on the surface, you may need to call your doctor right away. If there are just a few drops on the stool or in the diaper, you may need to let your doctor know today to discuss your symptoms. Black stools may mean you have blood in the digestive tract that may need treatment right away, or may go away on its own.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of stool. Diarrhea medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black. Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
If you take aspirin or some other medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots, it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Symptoms of a vaginal infection may include:
- Vaginal itching.
- Vaginal discharge that is not normal for you.
- Red, irritated skin in the vaginal area.
- Pain when you urinate.
- Pain or bleeding when you have sex.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
- Passing out (losing consciousness).
- Feeling very dizzy or lightheaded, like you may pass out.
- Feeling very weak or having trouble standing.
- Not feeling alert or able to think clearly. You may be confused, restless, fearful, or unable to respond to questions.
Pain in adults and older children
- Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
- Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
- Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
- You may feel a little out of breath but still be able to talk (mild difficulty breathing), or you may be so out of breath that you cannot talk at all (severe difficulty breathing).
- It may be getting hard to breathe with activity (mild difficulty breathing), or you may have to work very hard to breathe even when you’re at rest (severe difficulty breathing).
Severe trouble breathing means:
- You cannot talk at all.
- You have to work very hard to breathe.
- You feel like you can't get enough air.
- You do not feel alert or cannot think clearly.
Moderate trouble breathing means:
- It's hard to talk in full sentences.
- It's hard to breathe with activity.
Mild trouble breathing means:
- You feel a little out of breath but can still talk.
- It's becoming hard to breathe with activity.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
- Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
- Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
- Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
- Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
- Medicines taken after organ transplant.
- Not having a spleen.
Symptoms of a bladder infection may include:
- Pain or burning when you urinate.
- A frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
- Blood in the urine.
Symptoms of a kidney infection may include:
- Pain in the flank, which is felt just below the rib cage and above the waist on one or both sides of the back.
- Fever or chills.
- Pain or burning when you urinate.
- A frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
- Belly pain.
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:
- Sudden shortness of breath.
- Sudden, sharp chest pain that may get worse when you breathe deeply or cough.
- A cough. The cough may bring up blood or pink, foamy mucus.
- Fast heart rate.
Severe vaginal bleeding means that you are soaking 1 or 2 pads or tampons in 1 or 2 hours, unless that is normal for you. For most women, passing clots of blood from the vagina and soaking through their usual pads or tampons every hour for 2 or more hours is not normal and is considered severe. If you are pregnant: You may have a gush of blood or pass a clot, but if the bleeding stops, it is not considered severe.
Moderate bleeding means that you are soaking more than 1 pad or tampon in 3 hours.
Mild bleeding means that you are soaking less than 1 pad or tampon in more than 3 hours.
Minimal vaginal bleeding means "spotting" or a few drops of blood.
Some of the problems with breastfeeding that you might have include:
- Sore, red nipples.
- Stabbing or burning breast pain.
- A hard lump in your breast.
- Your baby having trouble latching onto your breast.
If you have pain when you are breathing, you may be at immediate risk for a pulmonary embolism if you also have:
- Pain deep in one leg for no clear reason. This can be a sign of a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis) that could travel to the lungs.
- A history of problems with blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis or a previous pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Trouble sleeping.
- Feeling sad or hopeless.
- Crying often, or feeling like you are going to cry.
- Feeling anxious or edgy.
- Not being able to concentrate.
Seek Care Today
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
- Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
- If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
- If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
- Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
- You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
- You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
- You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
- Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
- If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
- If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
It's common to feel tired after delivery. Loss of sleep, the changes your body goes through as you recover, or the demands of caring for a new baby may add to your fatigue. It's important to focus on your healing for the first six weeks. Start other activities slowly as you feel stronger.
Here are some tips to help with fatigue in the first few weeks and months after delivery.
- Eat on a regular schedule.
Don't skip meals or go for long periods without eating. Choose healthy foods.
- Get some exercise.
For many people, walking is a good choice. If you don't have your usual energy, don't overdo it. If you had any problems during your pregnancy or during labor or delivery, your doctor may give you more specific instructions about activities.
- Try to take rest breaks often during the day.
If you have to return to work soon after delivery, ask your employer if you can take short breaks. You can ask your doctor or midwife to write a note requesting these breaks.
- Do only as much as you need to.
Don't take on extra activities or responsibilities.
- Ask for help from family or friends when you need it.
Managing sleep problems after childbirth
Sleep problems are common when you are caring for a new baby. These tips may help you get a good night's sleep.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Use your bed only for sleep.
- If you have a partner, ask them to burp, change, and settle the baby after feedings. This can help you get back to sleep more quickly before the next feeding.
- If you are bottle-feeding, have others feed the baby sometimes so you can rest.
- Limit caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Try relaxation methods like meditation or guided imagery.
When to call for help during self-care
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
- Abnormal or increased vaginal bleeding.
- Lower belly pain.
- Urinary problems.
- Symptoms occur more often or are more severe.
Preparing For Your Appointment
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
- Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
- Breast Problems
- Constipation, Age 12 and Older
- Feeling Depressed
- Female Genital Problems and Injuries
- Fever or Chills, Age 12 and Older
- Leg Problems, Noninjury
- Nausea and Vomiting, Age 12 and Older
- Rectal Problems
- Sleep Problems, Age 12 and Older
- Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older
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