Is This Normal? 5 Postpartum Red Flags To Keep In Mind

Postpartum Red Flags, Mom with newborn baby on her chest

The postpartum period is a magical time. 

You’re somewhere between recovering from a battle wound and falling in love all over again.

Think: Love Actually meets Saving Private Ryan.

So much love. So much pain.

Sleep is basically a mythical creature and the days seem to string along like an unraveling ball of yarn. 

You’re literally wearing an adult diaper, only managing to walk to and from the bathroom. On top of it all, you’re also trying to figure out if a tiny, squishy human will drink milk from your nipples. 

It’s a lot. 

Here’s our advice:

Expect the unexpected.  

First off, it’s important to give yourself grace during this time. Not everything is going to be perfect, and that’s okay. 

You have a lot to figure out. 

It’s a fragile time. 

Amidst the chaos mixed with moments of pure, tender bliss you discover…

Your body is amazing.  

And greatly deserves rest. 

During your time of rest with your new baby, it’s important to keep an eye out for potential postpartum red flags.

What I mean is…

During postpartum, your body is recovering from birthing a human. With that comes potential risks. You’ve lost quite a bit of blood, your scars are healing, as well as your mind. 

Some symptoms are normal, while some are not

Let’s go over some info to help you tell the difference. 

Heavy Bleeding vs. Normal Bleeding

After giving birth, there will always be bleeding. The placenta detached from your uterine wall, leaving you with an inside wound. 


You’ll need to sport that mesh underwear with an ice pack for at least a few days. Then, as your flow gets slower, you’ll switch to large menstrual pads. 

However, the important thing is to keep track of how much you are bleeding. Severe bleeding that doesn’t seem to stop could be a serious problem. 

There are key differences between normal bleeding and postpartum hemorrhage. 

A postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) would most likely happen within 24 hours of giving birth, but it can happen up to 12 weeks postpartum. The key is to catch it early and make sure your bleeding gets under control. 

Normal bleeding would look like this: 

  • Blood clots smaller than a quarter
  • Small gushes of blood when you stand
  • Blood amount decreases each day
  • Blood color fading from bright red to pinkish red or dark brown by day 3 or 4 postpartum 
  • No chills or high fever
  • No blurred vision

Severe/heavy bleeding would look like this: 

  • Blood clots bigger than a plum
  • Bleeding that soaks more than one hospital-grade sanitary pad per hour
  • Bleeding that does not slow down or stop
  • Chills 
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision

If you’re still not sure, always play it safe and let your doctor or midwife know. Ask them any questions, don’t hesitate. 

High Fever With Abdominal Swelling and Pain

During postpartum, it’s common for you to experience small fevers. Your body underwent many changes. Transitioning from a pregnant to a non-pregnant state takes time.

Your body still needs a little time to adjust. 

A low fever (below 100.4℉) is nothing to worry about and should go away on its own. 


A high fever (above 100.4℉) could be cause for concern.

This kind of fever could be an indicator of endometritis, a common infection for people who’ve recently given birth. 

Here are a few symptoms to look for: 

  • High fever (over 100.4℉)
  • Swelling in abdomen 
  • Pelvic pain 
  • Constipation or pain with bowel movements 

Endometritis can be caused by…

  • STIs
  • Tuberculosis
  • Outside bacteria 

After giving birth, the main cause is outside bacteria. Your vagina is a self-regulating system. So, when outside bacteria mixes with your vagina’s bacteria it can cause problems. It creates an imbalance, leading to infection. This causes inflammation, leading to more than discomfort for you. 

Inflammation would cause swelling in your abdomen and other types of abdominal or pelvic pain. 

I know, it can be difficult to tell what is simply normal postpartum pain and what is actually serious. 

Here’s our advice: 

Reach out to your care provider if you have any doubts or questions about what you are experiencing. It will not annoy your midwife or doctor to answer your postpartum questions.

Remember, this discomfort would go beyond the normal postpartum discomfort. Endometritis is usually not life-threatening, but the sooner you resolve it, the better. 

Severe Headaches Alongside Other Symptoms

Notice your head aching a little more than usual? 

You’re not the only one. 

40% of people experience headaches in the six weeks after giving birth. Hormonal changes and blood loss are usually the culprits. Typically, these postpartum headaches are not serious. 


Severe headaches paired with other symptoms could be a different story. A severe headache would be a throbbing headache, feeling like a migraine that won’t go away. 

If you’re experiencing severe headaches alongside…

  • Blurred vision 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Brain fog 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling of face, hands, or feet

You’ll need to go to the ER. 

Here’s why: 

Severe headaches paired with the symptoms listed above are signs of postpartum preeclampsia

It can develop before, during, or after birth and affects 2 to 8% of all pregnancies. Preeclampsia is the leading cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women. 

It is a serious condition that requires interventions. 

Keep a close watch on your symptoms within the first 2 to 7 days after delivery. You don’t want these symptoms to slide by! 

Pain and Tenderness in Your Legs

Leg tenderness is also an important postpartum red flag to look out for. 

Leg tenderness can be a sign of a blood clot forming or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is when a blood clot grows in veins, deep inside your body. 

Basically, the blood flowing through your veins is too slow, creating blood clots. Best case, you may only feel slight discomfort and swelling in your legs. 

While this condition is not urgent, DVT can lead to more serious conditions. In other words, a pulmonary embolism. This happens when a blood clot travels to your lungs and clogs blood vessels. 

Now, that is life-threatening. 

This is why, if you feel you have DVT, please let your doctor or midwife know. 

Here are the most common symptoms of DVT: 

  • Leg swelling 
  • Leg tenderness
  • Increased warmth in the painful area
  • Red/discolored skin on the leg
  • Pain with deep breathing
  • Shortness of breath

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Contact your doctor or midwife, even if you’re not sure.

Listen to your body, and know the warning signs. You won’t be sorry!

Deep Feelings of Anxiety and Unhappiness 

Ever heard of the “baby blues?” 

This is a term used to describe a short-term, mild change in mood for postpartum women. The postpartum period brings about feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and unhappiness. Many women experience this. 

It’s normal. 

Babies are hard. 

Babies need nonstop care during those first few weeks. It’s overwhelming. 

There’s no way around it.


A postpartum red flag would be continuing moods of anxiety or unhappiness that last for more than 2 or 3 weeks.

Here’s what I mean… 

You’re unhappy or feeling “empty” most of the time. 

You have a loss of interest in your hobbies or favorite activities.

It’s hard to make decisions and you feel restless.

You have constant feelings of hopelessness, irritability, or frustration. 

You have difficulty sleeping, even when the baby is asleep or in the care of someone else. 

Is this you? 

If so… 

You’re not alone. 

As I said before, during the postpartum period, both your body and mind need to heal. 

Sometimes, hormonal changes combined with the demands of childbirth and newborn care are too much to handle. 

If this is you…

Reach out. 

Don’t carry this burden alone. 

Here are a few ideas to help: 

  • Call your midwife or doctor 
  • Set up a therapy session 
  • Talk to family or a close friend 
  • Practice a self-care routine

I promise…

Motherhood is a journey many have traveled. You’re not the only one to go through this journey and not the last. 

We’re Here For You

At Buddha Belly Doulas, we’re here for you during your postpartum journey.

Motherhood is a journey best traveled with companions! 

Let us be a part of it. 

Our team of amazing postpartum doulas is ready to help you. 

Learn more about our postpartum doula services here

Remember, we’re cheering you on!

You may also want to check out: Breastfeeding Red Flags and Recovering after a Cesarean

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading