You've just had your baby and your body is going through all sorts of changes. You'd think that after the birth of the babe(s) and the removal of the placenta, that the majority of what you were carrying for 9 months (give or take) has been removed. However your body is still very much in a process. It will be, in fact, well after pregnancy and delivery as your body begins to return back to its formal pre-pregnancy state. This process could take years, and at minimum, months, following delivery. It’s normal to have some vaginal bleeding after delivery. Here, we share what postpartum bleeding (PPB) is and some tips on how to manage it.
Any PPB you see after childbirth is also called lochia. It’s a type of discharge that’s similar to your menstrual period, and typically lasts for four to six weeks post delivery. It contains blood, pieces of the uterine lining, mucus and white blood cells.
For the first few days after your baby is born, the blood you see will likely be bright or dark red. You are usually still in the hospital or back home for the first few days and wearing large, disposable undies provided by the hospital. They may also have provided large maxi pads or even large sheets to bleed into. You may see a few clots as well. This is normal.
Between days four and seven, you are typically now home and if you are nursing, you may even be feeling the effects of your uterine lining shedding as your muscles contract. Breastfeeding sends signals for your body to do so, so you may experience frequent cramping that reminds you of your period. The blood should turn a pinkish or brownish color. Clots should get smaller or disappear.
By the end of the first week, the discharge will likely be white or yellow in color with ceasing or slowing significantly at 4-6 weeks. This can vary of course between women and is one of the main reasons your doctor will wish to see you for postpartum visits. Typically a 2 week and one month postpartum check up.
Tip # 1 – Keep tabs on the volume of your bleeding with pads and absorbent undies. While bleeding is normal — and even heavy bleeding is not unusual — there can be postpartum problems that include excessive bleeding. If you experience bleeding that soaks a pad every hour for two hours, you should call your doctor or midwife as it may be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage.
Tip # 2 – Do not use tampons for postpartum bleeding. This can not only skew your ability to monitor how much blood loss you have, but also, the insertion can increase your risk of infection where the placenta separated from the uterine wall. According to BabyCenter, "Tampons could introduce bacteria, so it's safest not to use them until the lochia has stopped and you've completely healed inside."
Tip # 3- Those who give birth vaginally often experience some tearing, and having penetrative sex too soon can prevent those tears from healing. For those who do not have a vaginal delivery, you still may find that your body is shedding lining and a c-section is undoubtedly major surgery. Remember, after giving birth, your uterus takes about six weeks to return to its normal size and for your cervix to close back up. It is best to wait to resume any sexual relations until after the cervix has closed. Otherwise, any interruptions in the healing process that would cause for concern may be dismissed as typical lochia.
Your postpartum bleeding, or lochia, is a natural although sometimes inconvenient part of childbirth. Your postpartum recovery won't be just a few days. Fully recovering from pregnancy and childbirth can take months. Be patient with yourself and your body as you recover and never hesitate to ask your provider what’s normal and what’s a cause for further investigation.