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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.
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
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.
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:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
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
Symptoms of postpartum depression may
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
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.
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Symptoms of a kidney infection may
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:
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.
Symptoms of a vaginal infection may
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
Ear or rectal temperature
Armpit (axillary) temperature
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
If you have pain when you are breathing, you may be at
immediate risk for a pulmonary embolism if you also
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
Some of the problems with breast-feeding that you might have include:
If you develop problems and your
doctor has given you specific instructions to follow, be sure to follow those
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:
Sleep problems are common when you
are caring for a new baby. These tips may help you get a good night's
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.
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.
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 nonprescription
suppositories for constipation.
To treat the itching or pain of
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
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
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
breast-feeding. 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
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
July 31, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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