Alert! Postpartum Recovery Red Flags

Yesterday we talked all about the normal changes you should expect from your postpartum body. Today we talk about the things that are outside the range of normal.

We believe all women should be aware of these red flags so they know to seek treatment from their care providers right away.

There are several complications that can arise during the postpartum period, including postpartum hemorrhage, postpartum pre-eclampsia, severe headaches, infections, and blood clot disorders. 

While many of these complications are easily treated, you should contact your care provider immediately if you experience any of these postpartum red flags.

Heavy Bleeding

Yesterday's blog talked about lochia and what to expect with vaginal bleeding. But what happens when the bleeding is excessive? If you are soaking through a pad in less than an hour, are passing blood clots the size of a golf ball or larger, or are feeling weak, dizzy, or pale, call your care provider immediately.

Keep in mind that if you have experienced excessive bleeding with past pregnancies, you are at an increased risk of experiencing this again. This excessive bleeding can happen anywhere from 24 hours to 6 weeks postpartum. 

Elevated Blood Pressure

Most pregnant women know to take note of elevated blood pressure during pregnancy, but did you know that high blood pressure can still be a complication during the postpartum time? If you are experiencing high blood pressure, severe headaches that don't go away with pain medication, changes in vision, or nausea/vomiting or swelling, call your doctor right away. 

Severe Headache

Severe headaches can occur in postpartum women especially those who had an epidural during labor. If your headache is not improved with pain medication and is worse when standing but noticeably better when you are laying down, then you should contact your care provider. Bed rest, hydration, and caffeine can help, but it is important to speak with your care provider to see if anything else should be done. 


There are several common infections that can occur postpartum. A high fever is the most noticeable symptom for all of these infections. Other red flags to take note of are: chills, abdominal pain, foul-smelling discharge or a foul-smelling incision cite, redness, swelling, tenderness or pain in the breast, abdomen, or uterus, or flu-like symptoms. Any of these symptoms can be the sign of a serious infection and warrant a call to your care provider immediately.

Urinary tract infections can also occur during your postpartum recovery. If you are experiencing pain when urinating, frequent urination or the urge to urinate, or blood in your urine, please call your doctor.

Other Red Flags

If you are considered to be advanced maternal age, have had a cesarean delivery, or have had a lengthy bed rest, you might be at a higher risk of developing other postpartum complications. While swelling is very common after delivery, if you are experiencing calf pain and swelling together, along with asymmetrical and extremely prominent swelling (meaning one leg, ankle, or foot is much larger than the other), call your doctor right away.  Chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath (especially when at rest) are other red flags that need to be discussed with a doctor. 

As yesterday's blog noted, your body might do some strange things during this postpartum time.

But it's important to know what is normal and what is outside the range of normal. That's why every postpartum client should know about these red flags and when to call their care provider.