What You Need to Know About Lochia (Postpartum Bleeding)

Once you have given birth to your baby, you may be hoping that everything you went through over the past nine months will evaporate so you can bounce back to normal. Unfortunately, there are plenty of postpartum symptoms that you might never have thought about. One of the biggest shock most women face postpartum is called lochia, or postpartum bleeding.

Whether you just had your baby or are approaching your delivery date, here is everything you need to know about lochia.

What is Lochia?

Every woman is going to bleed a little after giving birth. This bleeding is called lochia, or postpartum bleeding, and it isn’t entirely different from a period. During pregnancy, the hormones will thicken the uterine lining so it can support the baby and the placenta. Once you have delivered your baby, the uterus immediately begins to shrink back to its normal size, and the lining is shed.

The lochia is made up of blood and tissue, just like your period, but it is also shed on a larger scale and will consist of mucus and other kinds of discharge. In fact, during the first few days or weeks after delivery, your lochia will look very similar to a period, with bright red blood with a flow that ranges from light to heavy. You will need to use thick maternity pads. It’s possible that you may even pass some pieces of placenta or tissue.

Will I Experience Lochia After a C-Section?

Yes, whether the delivery was done vaginally or via C-section, you will experience lochia. However, those who undergo a cesarean section will oftentimes experience far less postpartum bleeding, because the uterus is cleaned out with a swab to remove the placenta and all membranes during the surgery. Since that does not happen during vaginal birth, those women experience longer lochia.

How Long Does Postpartum Bleeding Last?

The heaviest bleeding will last for about 3-10 days. After that, the color of the blood will change to light brown and will taper off, changing to spotting then disappearing. Lochia will eventually stop around four to six weeks post-delivery. However, it can sometimes end sooner or later.

Also, be aware that postpartum bleeding and postpartum hemorrhage are not the same thing. The latter is extremely heavy bleeding that begins right after the baby has been delivered and measures up to about a half-quart of blood loss. This is a serious condition and happens in 1 to 5 percent of all births.

What is Normal Lochia?

As mentioned earlier, postpartum bleeding should look like heavy menstruation in the beginning. The blood will be dark and have the same musty scent as period blood. Most women follow a timeline similar to this:

• 0-5 days after birth: Dark red, heavy blood flow that may have some clots. The clotting should no bigger than the size of a plum.
• 5-10 days after birth: Blood will be thinner, pink or light brown. Some small clots but not very frequent.
• 10 days-6 weeks after birth: Discharge gradually becomes yellowish or whitish and will taper off. No more clots should appear.

How To Manage Postpartum Bleeding

The first thing you want to keep in mind is that you are going to need sanitary pads that are highly absorbent during this time. Many women will take as many pads and liners as they can from the hospital since they often have bleeding when leaving for home with their baby. You should also stock up on Depends or overnight menstruation pads to help.

As time passes, the postpartum bleeding will get thinner, so you won’t need to use as thick of a pad as earlier on. You should avoid tampons because they increase the risk of infection.

Here are a few more tips for dealing with lochia:

• Do not overexert yourself. Even light exercise can cause your postpartum bleeding to become heavier.
• Use the bathroom often. Having an empty bladder will make it easier for the uterus to contract and get rid of the lining. Use the bathroom even when it doesn’t seem like your bladder is full.
• Use your Peri bottle and sitz bath. Rinse with these tools to help keep everything clean and reduce the chance of infection, especially after a vaginal birth.
• Choose comfortable clothing that you are not worried about getting stained. Since you never know how heavy lochia may be, it is best to wear loose-fitting clothing and older pairs of underwear. Don’t wear anything constrictive or tight.

Remember, even though you are going to be busy with your new baby and all the responsibilities that come with it, you need to rest and relax as well. Doing too much too soon can worsen the postpartum bleeding.

Is My Postpartum Bleeding Normal? Should I Call a Doctor?

There are a few instances when you should be concerned about your postpartum bleeding. Abnormal bleeding can occur from a vaginal tear or a bladder hemorrhage, meaning that the blood isn’t coming from your uterus. If you have a blood disorder, that can make the bleeding heavier too.

Sometimes, you might have issues with the uterus contracting. Some women experience heavy lochia due to something called uterine atony. This happens when the uterus doesn’t contract enough; or there is still placenta left in the uterus; or there is something else keeping the uterus from returning to normal, such as a fibroid.

It is also possible to get secondary postpartum hemorrhage anywhere between the first 24 hours to 12 weeks after birth. The symptoms include feeling shaky, feverish, or ill; having pain in the pelvis; having postpartum bleeding with a foul, offensive scent; bleeding that becomes heavier over time, not lighter.

If you notice anything unusual, you should call your general practitioner as soon as possible. Even if something just doesn’t feel right, you need to speak to a medical professional. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Wrapping It Up

You should know now that lochia, also referred to as postpartum bleeding, is part of the natural healing process after birth. Lochia happens as the uterus returns to its normal size and rids itself of any excess placenta and lining that had thickened during the course of your pregnancy. While lochia can last up to a month and a half, you should only experience bleeding for 1-2 weeks.

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