Complications after giving birth

Sometimes after giving birth complications can occur.

You must seek emergency medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms

  • Sudden or very heavy blood loss and signs of shock, including faintness, dizziness, palpitations or tachycardia (when you become aware of your heart beating very fast)
  • If there are no signs of heavy bleeding but your abdomen feels sore and tender you should get checked for other causes
  • Fever (high temperature), shivering, abdominal pain or offensive vaginal discharge
  • Severe or persistent headache or a headache and one or more of the following in the first 72 hours after giving birth
    • Changes in your vision
    • Nausea of vomiting
  • Pain, swelling or redness in the calf muscle of one or both of your legs
  • Difficulty breathing, feeling short of breath or having chest pain

You should seek advice from your midwife or doctor if you have any of these symptoms

  • Not being able to pass urine within 6 hours of birth
  • Painful, stinging, unpleasant smelling discharge, uncomfortable vagina and / or surrounding area (perineum)
  • Leaking urine when you don’t mean to
  • Low mood, anxiety, restlessness, tearfulness, fatigue, loss of appetite
  • Rectal pain or bleeding
  • Difficulty or inability to pass stools
  • Passing stools when you don’t mean to
  • Persistent tiredness.
  • Backache

Around one in ten mothers become depressed.  This is usually mild but sometimes can be quite severe.  If you think you are depressed contact your GP or health visitor for help and advice.

GP Postnatal Check

You should have your postnatal check about six weeks after your baby’s birth to make sure that you are recovering from the birth. You may be offered an appointment to go back to the hospital or midwifery unit where you gave birth, but otherwise you should see your GP.

It’s a good opportunity to ask any questions and sort out any problems that are troubling you.

Babies often have minor illnesses that you don’t need to worry about, however these are some symptoms that you must seek emergency medical attention for:

  • Your baby becomes unresponsive.
  • Your baby develops a rapid or unusual patterns of breathing (normal is 30-60 breaths per minute).
  • Your baby has a fit.  Even if your baby recovers without medical attention you must still contact your doctor.
  • Your baby develops a rash that does not fade using the ‘glass test’.
  • Your baby has cold hands and feet with a temperature.
  • Your baby has abnormally pale skin colour, such as, looking very pale, blue or dusky around the lips.
  • Your baby becomes jaundiced in the first 24 hours of birth.
  • Your baby hasn’t passed meconium (first stool of newborn babies) within 24 hours of being born.

Information may also be sought in your Birth to five book and your child’s Personal Child Health Record (PCHR)

You should seek advice from your midwife, health visitor or doctor if you suspect your baby:

  • Is jaundice (yellow).  If occurs within 24 hours of birth seek emergency medical attention.
  • Has a nappy rash.
  • Has thrush (a common fungal infection) in the mouth or on the bottom.
  • Is constipated.
  • Has diarrhoea.
  • Is excessively and inconsolably crying
  • Has colic

Further information

Recovering after giving birth | nidirect
Your body after the birth – (
Is your baby or toddler seriously ill? (
The Baby Check App – The Lullaby Trust

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