Nobody wants to think about post partum bleeding, but it’s a reality of life for most new mothers. There’s always going to be a bit of blood after birth, and the amount will vary from person to person, but it’s important to know how much is a normal amount and when you should start to worry. Hint: it’s a lot later than you might expect! Getting used to blood is a major part of the new mother experience, and learning to handle post partum bleeding is a vital part of coping with motherhood.
Lochia is the name for the normal discharge women produce after giving birth, otherwise known as post partum bleeding. It’s a lot like a regular period, and is made up of blood and the mucous membrane that lined the uterus during your pregnancy. This is something that you can expect to experience even after a c-section birth!
When does post partum bleeding stop?
This is the bit that surprises a lot of people. You can expect your post partum bleeding to last from somewhere between four and six weeks after birth! It’ll be heavier and more intense over the first few days after birth, but it will slowly decrease over time.
Lochia, or regular post partum bleeding, is different from a post partum hemorrhage, which is a serious condition that occurs with somewhere between 1 and 5 per cent of births. This is heavy bleeding that starts during or immediately after birth, and your medical team should notice it immediately!
What does normal post partum bleeding look like?
The appearance of post partum bleeding changes gradually over time. It’ll start out looking like a regular heavy period, with a dark red color and a familiar musty smell. In most cases, it changes in appearance over time in a fairly regular way.
For the first week or so, your bleeding is likely to be heavy and dark red in color, and will often come with a few blood clots in it. The second week’s lochia is usually a bit thinner and pinkish or brownish in color, but it might still have a few small clots in it. After that, there should be two to four more weeks of discharge, which should gradually fade to a whitish or yellowish color before slowing and eventually stopping. There shouldn’t be more clotting at this point!
If you’ve been active or breastfeeding, you may notice that you bleed a little heavier for a while. It may also be heavier at certain times of day, such as early in the morning. That’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about!
When to call the doctor
Keep a close eye on your post partum bleeding, as changes in it could indicate a problem of some sort, although certain changes are to be expected. You should immediately call your doctor if you detect any of the following concerning symptoms:
If the clots of blood coming through in your lochia are larger than about the size of a plum, then there is a risk of more serious problems and your doctor will probably want to monitor you carefully. If the discharge smells particularly bad, then it could signal the presence of an infection. That should be easy to treat, but it’s worth checking on it early! If you’re in severe pain or experiencing fever, then those are signs of more advanced infection, and you’ll need treatment as fast as possible.
If the amount of blood flow in your post partum bleeding increases over time, fails to lessen at all, or comes through fast enough to soak through more than about one pad an hour, then it could be a sign of several different problems. These could include a bleeding disorder, an unusually late post partum hemorrhage, or some other problem with your uterus. All of these are major problems which you should call a doctor about immediately!
Dealing with post partum bleeding
Dealing with post partum bleeding is something you’re just going to have to get used to. The most important start point is absorbency – you’ll need something to soak up the blood! The heaviest pads you can get, or even adult underwear, are a great start point. Double or triple up if you need to! As time goes on and your flow lessens, you can switch to lighter pads or absorbent underwear. Avoid tampons for the first few weeks, though, as those can cause infection!
Reducing exertion as far as possible is a good way to keep things moving, as overexerting yourself can slow the speed at which your uterus expels waste. Similarly, peeing often can help to speed things up. Keeping your bladder as empty as possible can help your uterus to contract and expel everything that it needs to!
Keeping yourself well rinsed is also a good step. Especially if you have had a vaginal birth, regular washing and keeping your sensitive areas clean can help to keep things moving and reduce the risk of infection as far as possible.