Just as you should with any major medical event, know the signs of serious or life-threatening complications that require urgent medical care.
In the days and weeks after childbirth (whether vaginal or cesarean section), mothers may be at risk for infection, blood clots, postpartum preeclampsia and / or postpartum hemorrhage—all potentially life-threatening conditions. Depending on the complication, these conditions can occur as early as 1 day or as late as 12 weeks or more after childbirth.
Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience signs of an infection:
- A fever higher than 100.4 degrees F.
- Redness, swelling, pain or discharge around an episiotomy or perineal tear. An episiotomy is a surgical cut sometimes made at the vaginal opening to widen it during birth. A perineal tear is a tear in the area between the vagina and rectum that can sometimes occur naturally during childbirth.
- Painful, frequent urination and / or pain in your lower back (which could indicate a urinary tract infection).
- Red streaks on your breasts or sore, new lumps in your breast (signs of mastitis, a breast tissue infection associated with breastfeeding).
- Severe lower-stomach pain (which could indicate endometritis, an inflammation of the uterine lining).
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge (which could indicate a bacterial vaginosis infection).
Call 911 or seek emergency medical treatment if you experience signs of a dangerous blood clot (deep vein thrombosis, a life-threatening clot that can move into the lungs):
- pain, redness, swelling, or warmth in one leg
- shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- chest pain
- dizziness or fainting
- chills or clammy skin
- rapid heart rate
Call your healthcare provider immediately or seek emergency medical treatment if you experience signs of postpartum preeclampsia, a type of high blood pressure that afflicts some women in pregnancy and / or after childbirth:
- Blurred vision
- Swelling in the hands and face
- Severe headache or stomach pain
Call your healthcare provider immediately or seek emergency medical treatment if you experience signs of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), a rare but life-threatening, bleeding complication following childbirth:
- Heavy, continual bleeding (soaking a pad in less than an hour)
- Dizziness, weakness or feeling faint
- Blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Swelling and pain in the vaginal or perineum area (the area between the vagina and rectum).
Learn more about these and other complications to be aware of.
See also ...
This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.
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