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 non-pregnant 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 labour or delivery, your doctor may give you more specific instructions about activities.
Although most women don't have serious health problems during the postpartum period, you should see your doctor if you develop heavy vaginal bleeding, calf pain, pain with breathing (pulmonary embolism), or postpartum depression.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
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
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.3 C (0.5 F) to 0.6 C (1 F) lower than an oral temperature
Ear or rectal temperature
Armpit (axillary) temperature
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 colour 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 colouring 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:
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:
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Symptoms of a bladder infection may include:
Symptoms of a kidney infection may include:
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:
Severe vaginal bleeding means you are soaking through your usual pads or tampons each hour for 2 or more hours. 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:
If you have pain when you are breathing, you may be at immediate risk for a pulmonary embolism if you also have:
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
or other emergency services now.
If you develop problems and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow, be sure to follow those instructions.
Most women feel tired after labour and delivery. Caring for a new baby, loss of sleep, and the normal physical changes you experience as your body returns to its non-pregnant 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:
Sleep problems are common when you are caring for a new baby. These tips may help you get a good night's sleep.
Most women have some mild discomfort after delivery. You may have some cramping as your uterus returns to its non-pregnant size. If you had an episiotomy, you may have pain in your genital area. Women who have had a caesarean section (C-section) will have some pain at the incision site.
Most women can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofen (such as Advil) while breast-feeding to help relieve discomfort from some of these problems. But talk to your doctor before taking any medicine (prescription or non-prescription).
If you are breastfeeding, 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 breastfeeding. This inflammation can be related to tissue injury, infection, or both. Mastitis while breastfeeding 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 breastfeeding, but it most commonly occurs during the first 2 months after delivery, before your baby's feeding patterns become regular.
If you are not breastfeeding, 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.
Constipation and hemorrhoids may bother you after delivery. To prevent or ease these symptoms:
If you had a tear in your genital area during delivery (episiotomy), talk to your doctor before using any non-prescription suppositories for constipation.
To treat the itching or pain of hemorrhoids:
Let your doctor know if you are having problems with constipation or hemorrhoids. He or she may recommend a non-prescription 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.
To help with swelling in your lower legs:
Problems with the veins in the legs (varicose veins) and changes in hormones can also cause swelling. If the swelling in the ankles and feet does not go away or gets worse after trying home treatment, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
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 non-pregnant 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 breastfeeding, it is important to get the right amount of calories and nutrients for your baby.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
It is important to make healthy lifestyle choices to lower your chance for problems after your delivery.
Call your doctor if you have any questions about breastfeeding. This may help prevent any problems.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofJune 1, 2017
Current as of: June 1, 2017
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.