When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife
No matter how good you may be feeling otherwise, there are some instances when you shouldn't hesitate to call your health-care provider. Seemingly normal conditions like soreness or a headache can become serious causes for concern if they persist or worsen. Consider the following points:
If bleeding doesn't taper off, continues to be bright red after the first four days, soaks a pad every hour, or smells bad, let your doctor or midwife know. Some large clots are normal in the first couple of days after giving birth and aren't a reason for concern as long as you aren't bleeding heavily. These large clots are caused by blood pooling and clotting in your vagina while you are lying down or sitting, and will fall out when you get up or go to the bathroom.
If you develop a fever, even a low-grade one, tell your doctor or midwife. “Milk fever” isn't too uncommon on about day two or three postpartum or when your breasts are engorged. Still, it's best to let your care provider know what's going on. If you have no other symptoms and your care provider suspects that your fever is due to breast engorgement, he or she may tell you to try lots of water and rest before moving on to other treatment.
If you have severe pain in your abdomen or pelvis or if your afterpains get worse after you've gone home, or if your pain or soreness gets worse or lasts beyond the first week or two, let your doctor or midwife know.
If you have swelling, discharge, increasing pain or redness at the site of your episiotomy, tear, IV needle, or c-section incision, it could indicate infection. Call your doctor or midwife.
If your breasts are sore, tender, red, or warm to the touch and the symptoms are not relieved by nursing, massage, and soaks in a hot tub or shower, it could indicate a breast infection, particularly if the symptoms are accompanied by fever, chills, muscle aches, or fatigue. Let your doctor or midwife know.
If it burns or hurts when you urinate, if you feel like you have to go to the bathroom frequently but nothing or very little comes out, or if your urine is dark, cloudy, or bloody, it could indicate a urinary tract infection. Call your doctor or midwife. You may experience some stinging after the urine comes out from an abrasion or tear, and that's normal.
If you experience severe vomiting, contact your care provider immediately.
If you have severe or persistent headaches, double vision, blurred or dim vision, or see flashing spots or lights, let your care provider know. This could indicate a rare condition called postpartum pre-eclampsia, dangerously high blood pressure after giving birth.
If you experience pain, tenderness, and warmth in one leg, or if one leg is more swollen than the other, it could indicate deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot. This is serious — don't hesitate to call your doctor or midwife if you have this symptom!
Many new mothers have the tendency to focus all their attention on their new baby, which, in some respects, is as it should be. However, if you're feeling ill or are in pain, you won't be able to give your baby the complete care and attention she needs. Don't wait until a small problem has escalated into a full-fledged health emergency. Accept help from family and friends, keep your care provider in the loop, and listen to all the messages your body sends you, no matter how small.