When you have a newborn, days and nights may start to run together as you spend hours caring for your baby (and wondering if you’ll ever get a full night of sleep again). With the near-constant feeding, changing, rocking, and soothing a newborn requires, it can be easy to forget to look out for yourself, too.

It’s absolutely reasonable to experience some pain and discomfort in the weeks after giving birth — but it’s also essential to be aware of where “normal” ends. Some postpartum complications, if left unaddressed, can interfere with healing and cause lasting problems.

Remember: Your baby needs lots of things, but one of the most important of those is you. Take the time to listen to your body, take care of yourself, and speak with a doctor about any concerns.

Check out the list below to learn some of the most common postpartum complications, what to look out for, and when to seek medical help.

While bleeding after giving birth is normal — and most women bleed for 2 to 6 weeks — some women can experience excessive bleeding after childbirth.

Normal postpartum bleeding typically begins immediately after giving birth, whether delivery happens vaginally or via cesarean section. It’s normal immediately post-birth to bleed heavily and pass lots of red blood and clots. (It can feel like making up for that 9-month break in your period all at once!)

In the days after birth, though, bleeding should begin to slow and, over time, you should start to notice a reduced flow of darker blood that may last for weeks. While there may be temporary increases in the flow with increased physical activity or after breastfeeding, each day should bring a lighter flow.

When to check with your doctor

  • if your blood flow hasn’t slowed and you continue to pass large clots or bleed red blood after 3 to 4 days
  • if your blood flow has slowed and then suddenly begins to get heavier or returns to bright red after becoming darker or lighter
  • if you’re experiencing significant pain or cramping along with an increase in flow

A range of issues can cause excessive bleeding. In fact, overexertion can cause a temporary increase. This is often remedied by settling down and resting. (We know how hard it can be, but take time just to sit and cuddle that precious new baby of yours!)

However, more severe causes — such as a retained placenta or failure of the uterus to contract — may require medical or surgical intervention.

If you have any questions, speak with your doctor about your concerns.

Giving birth is no joke. It may result in stitches or open wounds for several reasons.

As unpleasant as it is to think about, vaginal tearing during childbirth is a reality for many first-time, and even second-, third-, and fourth-time mothers. This typically occurs as the baby is passing through the vaginal opening, and it often requires stitches.

If you give birth via cesarean delivery, you’ll get stitches or staples at the incision site.

If you have stitches in the vaginal or perineal area, you can use a squirt bottle to clean with warm water after using the restroom. (Make sure you always wipe from front to back.) You can use a doughnut-shaped pillow to reduce discomfort when sitting.

While it’s normal for this stitching or tearing to cause some discomfort as it heals, it’s not part of healthy healing for the pain to suddenly increase. This is one of the signs that the area might be infected.

Some women also experience other infections, like urinary, kidney, or vaginal infections after birth.

When to check with your doctor

Signs of infection include:

  • increasing pain
  • fever
  • redness
  • warmth to the touch
  • discharge
  • pain when urinating

When an infection is caught early, the typical course of treatment is a simple round of antibiotics.

However, if an infection advances, you might need more aggressive treatment or require hospitalization. So it’s essential to contact your doctor immediately if you suspect an infection.

Sneezing and peeing your pants in the baby aisle at Target is no fun for anyone — but it’s also perfectly normal. Urinary incontinence immediately after birth is more common than you may think. And it’s not dangerous — but this complication can cause discomfort, embarrassment, and inconvenience.

Sometimes a simple regimen of at-home exercises, like Kegels, can treat the issue. If you have a more extreme case, you might find that you need medical intervention to get relief.

You may also experience fecal incontinence, possibly due to weakened muscles or injury during birth. Don’t worry — this, too, is likely to improve over time. In the meantime, wearing pads or menstrual underwear may be helpful.

While being unable to hold it in may be one issue, not being able to go is another. From that first post-labor poop and beyond, you may struggle with constipation and hemorrhoids.

Changes in diet and staying hydrated may help keep things moving. You can also use creams or pads to treat hemorrhoids. Talk to your doctor before taking any laxatives or other medications.

When to check with your doctor

Many women will find that urinary or fecal incontinence significantly decreases in the days and weeks after childbirth. If it doesn’t, your doctor may be able to suggest some exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor area. In some cases, you may need further medical or surgical treatment.

The same is true for constipation or hemorrhoids. If they continue to be an issue in the weeks after birth, or your symptoms get worse, your doctor may be able to suggest additional treatments to ease the problem.

Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, breast pain and discomfort are a common complication during the postpartum period.

When your milk comes in — typically 3 to 5 days after birth — you may notice significant breast swelling and discomfort.

If you’re not breastfeeding, you might find that getting relief from the pain of engorgement is challenging. Using hot or cold compresses, taking over-the-counter pain relief medications, and taking warm showers might help ease pains.

If you choose to breastfeed, you may also experience nipple pain and discomfort as both you and baby begin to learn how to latch and nurse.

Breastfeeding shouldn’t continue to be painful, though. If your nipples start to crack and bleed, visit a lactation consultant for guidance on helping your baby latch in a way that won’t cause pain.

Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, you may be at risk for mastitis in the early days of milk production — and beyond, if you decide to breastfeed. Mastitis is a breast infection that, while painful, can usually be treated easily with antibiotics.

When to check with your doctor

Mastitis symptoms include:

  • redness of the breast
  • the breast feeling warm or hot to the touch
  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms

If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to continue breastfeeding but also to contact your doctor. Mastitis may require antibiotics to treat.

Feeling a little up and down, or feeling more weepy than usual in the weeks after birth is normal. Most women experience some form of the “baby blues.”

But when these symptoms last more than a few weeks or interfere with your caring for your baby, it may mean that you’re experiencing postpartum depression.

While postpartum depression can feel really, really hard, it is treatable, and it doesn’t need to cause you guilt or embarrassment. Many women who seek treatment begin to feel better very quickly.

When to check with your doctor

If you, or your partner, are worried that you’re experiencing postpartum depression, visit your doctor right away. Be honest and straightforward about your feelings so that you can get the help you deserve.

There are other serious complications following childbirth that are less common but need to be addressed immediately for your health and safety.

Some issues that may affect women in the postpartum stage include:

When to check with your doctor

Seek emergency medical care if you experience:

  • chest pain
  • trouble breathing
  • seizures
  • thoughts about harming yourself or your baby

Always contact your doctor if you experience:

  • fever
  • a red or swollen leg that is warm to the touch
  • bleeding through a pad in an hour or less or large, egg-sized clots
  • a headache that won’t go away, especially with blurred vision

Your days with your newborn are likely to include exhaustion and some pain and discomfort. You know your body, and if you have signs or symptoms that something might be an issue, it’s important to reach out to your doctor.

Most postpartum health visits occur up to 6 weeks after delivery. But you shouldn’t wait to bring up any issues you’re experiencing before that appointment takes place.

Most postpartum complications are treatable. Taking care of the issues allows you to return to focusing on your baby and feeling confident that you’re doing what you can for their well-being — and your own.