Of all the things you can expect to experience during your postpartum recovery, postpartum bleeding is one that every new Mom will experience, yet it still gets spoken about very little. No matter how your baby enters the world, whether via vaginal birth or a cesarean section, all new Moms can expect to experience around four to six weeks of vaginal bleeding (also known as lochia) after their baby is born.
But what is lochia and why does it happen? Here’s what you can expect after giving birth.
What is lochia?
During pregnancy, your womb builds up an extra thick layer of blood, tissue and mucus to support and protect your baby as it grows. Once your baby is born, the womb lining quickly starts to break down and expel from the body, resulting in some fairly substantial vaginal bleeding which can last anything from four to six weeks after your baby’s birth. In some cases, this process can be more gradual and last up to 12 weeks after your baby is born.
Even if your baby was born via a C-section birth, bleeding will start almost straight after childbirth. New moms will need to wear super-absorbent sanitary pads or menstrual pads that will need changing regularly. It’s important that care is taken to ensure good hygiene and keep your vagina and perineum clean, as this can minimise the risk of infection.
The amount of time it takes for the blood loss to stop will vary from one parent to the next and depends on a number of factors.
If you are breastfeeding, it’s worth noting that your lochia may be heavier than if you are bottle feeding, largely because breastfeeding can stimulate the womb to start contracting. causing the blood to be expelled faster. Some new Moms can also experience period-like cramps, which whilst uncomfortable, should not be significantly painful.
As you become more active after birth, you may find the blood loss becomes temporarily heavier, for example when walking around or exercising. It also tends to be heavier in the morning when you first wake up or after a period of lying down.
When should I be concerned about postpartum blood loss?
Postpartum blood loss is perfectly natural, and whilst at times it may feel heavy and bright red in colour, it is generally nothing to worry about. You may notice in the early days that you pass a few small blood clots, but these should stop a few days after birth.
Some blood loss however can be a sign of something more serious.
If you are having to change your pad increasingly often, are in significant pain, feel unwell or feverish or are passing large sized clots, you should seek urgent advice from your healthcare team.
In most cases, the blood will start off bright red in colour, before gradually starting to turn to a reddish-brown shade and gradually drawing to a close. For most women, this tends to be after around 4 weeks.