Yes, unfortunately after giving birth you will have to endure several weeks of postpartum bleeding. The more informed you are, the better prepared you will be for your postpartum journey so here we go.
What is Lochia?
Lochia is the term used to describe the vaginal bleeding that occurs after childbirth. It is a natural part of the healing process.
During pregnancy, the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, thickens and becomes rich with blood vessels and nutrients to support your growing baby. After birth, your body goes through several changes to return to its pre-pregnancy state. One of these changes is the shedding of the lining of the uterus, which is no longer needed since there is no longer a growing baby to support.
Oxytocin is the hormone that facilitates these changes. This hormone causes the uterus to contract and expel the endometrium, which is released as postpartum bleeding. These contractions are also the cause of childbirth afterpains. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which is one of the reasons why you are encouraged to breastfeed immediately after birth to help jump start the process.
What to expect with postpartum bleeding:
During the first few days after birth, lochia will be bright red and heavy, similar to a heavy period. You will need to wear a large pad or adult diaper to manage the bleeding (no tampons.) The bleeding tends to be stronger in the first week after birth, and then it gradually tapers down. In addition, it may be heavier in the morning when you first get out of bed and after physical activity. You may also notice small blood clots or tissue in the discharge. This is normal, as the uterus is shedding its lining.
As time passes, the bleeding will gradually become lighter in color and volume. After about a week, it will change from bright red to a pinkish or brownish color. Eventually, it will become a yellow or white discharge, similar to a light period. This discharge can last for up to six weeks, but it can vary. You may also begin bleeding more irregularly rather than having a consistent flow all the time.
How Long Will it Last?
The length and intensity of lochia can vary from person to person. Generally, it can last for up to six weeks, but it can be shorter or longer depending on individual circumstances. Some women bleed for 4 weeks, others bleed for as long as 8 weeks. Factors that can impact the length of lochia include the method of delivery, breastfeeding, and overall health.
Will I have postpartum bleeding after a c-section?
Yes, you’ll experience bleeding after birth with a C-section, but it won’t be exactly the same as with a vaginal delivery. During the surgery, doctors manually clean the uterus out to ensure they’ve removed all of the placenta and membranes. For this reason, if you have a cesarean you will typically have less lochia than with a vaginal birth.
Take the extra, unused, disposable underwear from your hospital room home with you and use them. These big, soft mesh underwear are great. They hold a large pad very easily saving you from messing up your nice undies.
Consider using cloth pads for postpartum bleeding. They are softer and more comfortable than disposable pads. Since you will be wearing a pad everyday for 4 – 6 weeks or more you will want something that feels nice on your swollen and sore bottom. There are lots of different cloth pads on the market that are made to be pillowy and comfortable for this special occasion. They can be thrown in the laundry and reused saving you money as well. I personally used organic, cotton, cloth pads with baby #2 and it was a game changer!
When to Call Your Provider:
While bleeding is a natural part of the postpartum period, there are some instances where you should contact your healthcare provider. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention right away:
- Heavy bleeding that soaks through a pad in less than an hour
- Large blood clots or discharge that is larger than a golf ball
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Fever or chills
- Severe cramping or pain
Passing clots after birth is entirely normal. But, you should tell your health care provider about extra-large blood clots (the size of a golf ball or larger) after birth.
You should expect the bleeding to decrease gradually over the first two weeks following the birth. If, on the other hand, it’s getting heavier, you should call your care provider immediately. This may be a sign that you are taking on too much, and need to slow down and rest more.
In conclusion, postpartum bleeding is a natural part of the healing process after childbirth and should be expected. While it can be uncomfortable, it is important to understand what to expect. Eventually you’ll be all healed up and it will be a forgotten memory as you focus on your sweet baby!