Looks at problems you may have in the days and weeks after the delivery of your baby (postpartum period). Covers emergency symptoms like signs of shock, fainting, or severe belly pain. Includes interactive tool to help you decide when to call a doctor.
Problems After Delivery of Your Baby
During the days and weeks after the
delivery of your baby (postpartum period), you can expect that your body will
change as it returns to its nonpregnant condition. The
postpartum period lasts for 3 months after delivery. As with pregnancy changes,
postpartum changes are different for every woman. For example, if you had
heartburn while you were pregnant, it may go away
after delivery. But other symptoms, such as
hemorrhoids, could continue to cause problems after
your baby is born.
Many minor postpartum problems can be managed
at home. For example, home treatment measures are usually all that is needed to
relieve mild discomfort from hemorrhoids or constipation. If you develop a
problem and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow, be sure
to follow those instructions.
Most women need some time after
delivery to return to their normal activities. It is important to focus on your
healing and taking care of your baby for the first 6 weeks. Start other
activities slowly as you feel stronger. Your doctor will tell you when you can
have sex again, but for most women, 6 to 8 weeks after delivery is the average
time. If you had any problems during your pregnancy or during labor or
delivery, your doctor may give you more specific instructions about activities.
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
Medicines you take. Certain
medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
Recent health events, such as surgery
or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
use, sexual history, and travel.
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
104 °F (40 °C) and
100.4 °F (38 °C) to
103.9 °F (39.9 °C)
100.3 °F (37.9 °C) and
Ear or rectal temperature
105 °F (40.6 °C) and
101.4 °F (38.6 °C) to
104.9 °F (40.5 °C)
101.3 °F (38.5 °C) and
Armpit (axillary) temperature
High: 103°F (39.5°C) and higher
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.
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 a medicine that affects the blood's ability to clot, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), or clopidogrel (Plavix), 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.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
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.
Crying often, or feeling like you are going to cry.
Feeling anxious or edgy.
Not being able to
If you have pain when you are breathing, you may be at
immediate risk for a pulmonary embolism if you also
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.
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
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 breast-feeding that you might have include:
Sore, red nipples.
Stabbing or burning
A hard lump in your breast.
having trouble latching onto your breast.
Symptoms of a kidney infection may
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.
or burning when you urinate.
A frequent urge to urinate without
being able to pass much urine.
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may
Sudden shortness of breath.
sharp chest pain that may get worse when you breathe deeply or
Coughing up blood or pink, foamy mucus.
Symptoms of a bladder infection may
Pain or burning when you urinate.
frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
Blood in the urine.
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,
Long-term alcohol and drug
Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
Medicines taken after organ transplant.
having a spleen.
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
You do not feel alert or cannot think clearly.
Moderate trouble breathing means:
It's hard to talk in full
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.
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
Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Feeling very dizzy or
lightheaded, like you may pass out.
Feeling very weak or having
Not feeling alert or able to think clearly. You
may be confused, restless, fearful, or unable to respond to questions.
Symptoms of a vaginal infection may
that is not normal for you.
Red, irritated skin in the vaginal
Pain when you urinate.
Pain or bleeding when you
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
With a moderate fever:
You feel warm or hot.
You know you have
With a mild fever:
You may feel a little warm.
you might have a fever, but you're not sure.
If you develop problems and your
doctor has given you specific instructions to follow, be sure to follow those
Feeling tired (fatigue)
Most women feel tired after
labor and delivery. Caring for a new baby, loss of sleep, and the normal
physical changes you experience as your body returns to its nonpregnant
condition can add to your fatigue. It is important to focus on your healing and
taking care of your baby for the first 6 weeks. Start other activities slowly
as you feel stronger.
To help with fatigue in the first few weeks
and months after delivery:
Eat regularly. Do not skip meals or go for long
periods without eating. Choose healthy foods.
Get outside, take walks, or keep your blood moving with your favorite workout.
If you do not have your usual energy, do not 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.
Do only as much as you need to, and do
not take on extra activities or responsibilities.
Spend time with
family and friends and let them help you care for your baby.
Sleep problems are common when you
are caring for a new baby. These tips may help you get a good night's
Sleep when your baby is sleeping or
Keep your naps as short as possible.
bed only for sleep.
Try to have a regular feeding pattern if you
are breast-feeding. If you are bottle-feeding, have others feed the baby
sometimes so you can rest.
Limit your caffeine, such as coffee,
tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
Nonprescription medicine to help relieve discomfort
Most women have some mild discomfort after delivery. You may have some
cramping as your uterus returns to its nonpregnant size. If you had an
episiotomy, you may have pain in your genital area.
Women who have had a
cesarean section (C-section) will have some pain at
the incision site.
If you are breast-feeding, it is safe to use
acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to help with mild discomfort.
The usual dose is 650 mg; recommended doses may range from 500 mg to 1,000 mg.
You can take 650 mg every 4 hours or 1,000 mg every 6 hours in a 24-hour
period. Do not take more than the maximum adult dose of 4,000 mg in a 24-hour
Be sure to follow these nonprescription medicine precautions.
Use, but do not take more than the maximum
Carefully read and follow all labels on the
medicine bottle and box.
Breast engorgement or mastitis
If you are
breast-feeding, your breasts may be sore as they fill with milk. Place ice
packs on your breasts for the pain and swelling. Be sure to put a cloth between
your skin and the ice pack. Some women find a hot shower or warm towels on the
breasts help the pain. You can also use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that is most
commonly related to breast-feeding. This inflammation can be related to tissue
injury, infection, or both. Mastitis while breast-feeding usually affects only
one breast and starts as a painful area that is red or warm. Fever, chills, and
flu-like symptoms or body aches can also develop. You can develop mastitis at
any time while breast-feeding, but it most commonly occurs during the first 2
months after delivery, before your baby's feeding patterns become
If you are not breast-feeding, do not stimulate your
nipples or warm your breasts. Instead, apply
cold packs, use medicine for pain and inflammation,
and wear a supportive bra that fits well.
Many new mothers may feel
"blue" after the birth of their baby. This may be caused by a change in
hormones, not getting enough sleep, feeling too busy, or just worried about
taking care of the baby.
Postpartum depression is a medical
condition, not a sign of weakness. Be honest with yourself and those who care
about you. Tell them about your struggle. You, your doctor, and your friends
and family can team up to treat your symptoms.
Plan activities and visit with friends and
family, and ask them to call you regularly.
Eat a nutritious diet.
Eat small snacks throughout the day to keep up your energy.
daily exercise, such as outdoor stroller walks. Exercise helps improve
Get as much sunlight as possible—keep your shades and
curtains open, and get outside as much as you can.
Ask for help
with food preparation and other daily tasks. Family and friends are often happy
to help a mother with newborn demands.
Don't overdo it. Get as much
rest and sleep as possible. Fatigue can increase depression.
use alcohol or caffeine.
Join a support group of new mothers. No
one can better understand and support the challenges of caring for a new baby
than other postpartum women.
hemorrhoids may bother you after delivery. To prevent
or ease these symptoms:
Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially
water and fruit juices.
Try a stool softener, such as Colace.
Do not strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
more exercise every day.
If you had a tear in your genital area during delivery
(episiotomy), talk to your doctor before using any nonprescription
suppositories for constipation.
To treat the itching or pain of
Keep the anus clean by wiping carefully after
each bowel movement. Gently wipe from the front to the back. Baby wipes or
hemorrhoid pads are usually more gentle than toilet paper. If you use toilet
paper, use only soft, undyed, unscented toilet paper.
soaks in a tub or a
sitz bath. Warm water can help soothe
hemorrhoids. Add baking soda to the water to relieve itching.
Do not sit for long periods, especially on hard
Let your doctor know if you are having problems with
constipation or hemorrhoids. He or she may recommend a nonprescription or
prescription medicine to treat your hemorrhoids.
If you had mild swelling from normal fluid buildup when you were pregnant, it may last for days or weeks after you deliver. You are most likely to notice this swelling in your face, hands, or feet. As your body changes back to how it was before you were pregnant, the swelling will go away.
Just as you slowly gained weight during
your pregnancy, it may take some time to lose weight after your baby is born.
Eat a nutritious diet and try to exercise daily. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for
you to get back to your normal activities. As the body returns to its
nonpregnant condition, many women feel they can manage their weight with
healthy eating and exercise. If it is hard for you to lose weight from your
pregnancy, talk to your doctor about your goals. If you are breast-feeding, it
is important to get the right amount of calories and nutrients for your
Symptoms that become more severe or
occur more often
It is important to make healthy lifestyle
choices to lower your chance for problems after your delivery.
Get plenty of rest.
Limit your use of
caffeine if you are breast-feeding.
Eat a nutritious diet. Healthy eating will help you get the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It will help you feel your best and have plenty of energy.
If you are breast-feeding, it is important to get good nutrition for you and your baby.
Try to get 30 minutes of
exercise on most, if not all, days of the week.
Fish that contain high levels of
mercury. This includes shark, swordfish, king
mackerel, tilefish, more than
6 oz (170 g) of white albacore
tuna a week, or fish caught in local waters that have not tested as safe.
Hazardous chemicals, certain cosmetic
products, or radiation
Call your doctor if you have any questions about
breast-feeding. This may help prevent any problems.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Postpartum Support International (U.S.)
927 North Kellogg Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93111
Postpartum Support International offers information and support not
only to women who are coping with postpartum depression and anxiety after
childbirth but also to their families. The Web site also includes the Mills
Depression and Anxiety Symptom-Feeling Checklist for evaluating your
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.