You’ve just given birth, so the last thing you want is MORE going on “down there”. Postpartum bleeding (otherwise known as lochia) is a natural and unavoidable side effect of having a baby, whether you give birth vaginally or have a cesarean section. The good news; it’s totally normal, and only temporary. Here are all the questions you’re probably asking, what you can expect, and how to manage it.
Why does bleeding occur postpartum?
Lochia is the process of your body ridding itself of all the extra blood and tissue that your uterus produced during gestation to help nourish your baby while he or she grew inside you. It’s part of your body’s process of returning to ‘normal’ after the stress of childbirth, and it’s nothing to stress over.
Will it look like a period?
Lochia acts much like a period in the sense that blood comes out of your vagina, but it’s usually much heavier and lasts longer than the average period. The colour of lochia can go from pink to red to brown, and even end up yellow or white. You may even find more than just blood in there; expect mucus, clots, and tissue from where the placenta was attached in your uterus. It might look a bit intimidating but it’s all normal. However, if anything doesn’t feel or look quite right, don’t be afraid to ask your nurse or doctor. When it comes your health no question is silly.
How long will the bleeding last?
It’s different for everyone, but heavy bleeding usually lasts between 3 and 10 days after you have given birth. After this it usually eases up to a light spotting.
Sometimes I bleed more... is this normal?
There are some things that will have your body producing more blood than normal. When you first bring your baby home, you can expect more blood because you are likely moving around a lot. When you first get home after giving birth, it’s advised to stay off your feet for a while and rest up so your body can recover, especially when bleeding so much.
You may also find that you experience a gush of blood when you stand up, but again, this is nothing to worry about, it’s simply due to the way your vagina is shaped. When you are sitting or lying down the blood collects, and when you stand up it releases. This is also why you’ll often bleed more in the morning when you first wake up.
One more thing to remember is that breastfeeding causes your body to release oxytocin, which makes your womb contract, producing more blood also.
What do I need to watch out for?
It’s normal to feel that there might be something wrong due to the large amount of blood loss, and while you shouldn’t worry about it, it’s important to be aware of anything that might be out of the ordinary. Never feel embarrassed or scared to ask your doctor or nurse what is and isn’t normal.
Watch out for any blood clots that look larger than a plum, any foul smelling discharge, or if you feel faint, weak or nauseous. If you experience any symptoms like blurred vision, chills, clammy skin or a rapid heartbeat, seek medical help immediately just in case there’s anything you need treatment for.
How do I manage the bleeding?
When you first come home after giving birth, you will likely need to wear a hospital-grade sanitary pad to collect the blood, but it won’t be long before you can return to a normal sized sanitary pad. You should wear underwear and clothes that you don’t mind getting grubby, as stains from lochia blood could easily end up on your clothes - stick to those trusty sweatpants for a while!
Also, try not to exert yourself in the beginning. Even a quick tidy up around the house counts as moderate exercise and could mean you bleed more, so remember to rest as much as possible and allow your body to get back to healthy.
Can I use tampons?
It is advised that for the first 6 weeks you only use pads, never tampons. This is because tampons (even our natural ones!) can introduce foreign bacteria into your uterus and genital tract, which is still recovering from the trauma of childbirth. Give your vagina a much-needed rest and stick to pads for the first 6 weeks, or as long as you feel necessary.
Have you recently given birth, or will be expecting in 2020? Share your journey with us over on Instagram @itsyoppie - we'd love to hear how you're getting on!