Information for the public

Common health concerns in women who have recently given birth

Common health concerns in women who have recently given birth

Symptoms to watch out for

What this could mean

What should your healthcare professional do?

Not being able to pass urine within 6 hours of birth

Urine retention

Advise you to take a warm bath or shower. Recommend use of a catheter if this doesn't work

Painful, stinging, unpleasant smelling, uncomfortable vagina and/or surrounding area (perineum)


Offer to check your perineum for signs of infection and problems with healing. Advise use of crushed ice or cold gel pads and paracetamol. If your perineum doesn't get better you may be offered medication to help reduce any inflammation

Difficulty or inability to pass stools


Advise you on your diet and fluid intake. You may be offered a gentle laxative if changes in diet don't help

Leaking urine when you don't mean to

Urinary incontinence

Advise you on how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with exercises. Refer you for more treatment if these don't help

Low mood, anxiety, restlessness, tearfulness, fatigue

Baby blues, postnatal depression

Encourage you to take gentle exercise, take time to rest, get help with caring for your baby and talk to someone, and ensure you have access to social support networks. If you have experienced symptoms of the baby blues which have not improved after 10–14 days you should be assessed to see if you have postnatal depression

Rectal pain or bleeding


Advise you to increase the amount of fluid and fibre in your diet to help avoid constipation. Offer to check your rectal area and offer treatments or further evaluation if needed

Passing stools when you don't mean to

Faecal incontinence

Assess how severe the problem is and ask how long it has been happening for. Refer you for further checks if this doesn't get better

Persistent tiredness

Anaemia (not enough iron in your blood)

Ask you about your general well-being and offer you advice on diet, exercise and planning activities. Check for any physical, psychological or social causes. You may be offered iron supplements


Musculoskeletal problem

Check your back for the potential cause and treat according to local guidance

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