Life as a new mother can be thrilling, tiring, and overwhelming; you’ve just brought a little one into the world, and you're full of love for the new addition to your family. You’ve spent the last nine months preparing for these days, and now it’s time to put all that you’ve learned into practice.
It’s an exciting time, but there’s still a lot to get used to, especially if this is your first child. Now you’ve got night-time feeds, postpartum hormone changes and a whole lot of physical changes to look forward to! Your body has changed a lot already, but there may be more change to come. These changes are likely totally normal, but some of them can feel concerning if you aren’t sure what to expect.
One thing to be aware of is postpartum bleeding, also known as lochia.
What is lochia?
Lochia is another word for postpartum bleeding. It differs in appearance from menstrual blood and is typically a dark red color. This blood flow is usually quite heavy and is a result of the placenta coming away from the walls of your womb. It can also be caused by the body ridding itself of the extra blood and tissue it used to nourish the baby during pregnancy.
Postpartum bleeding is often a little uncomfortable, but it does not indicate anything other than the fact that you have just had a baby!
How long do you bleed after giving birth?
This heavy postpartum bleed can last up to ten days after you give birth. You might experience some light bleeding (or spotting) up to six weeks following birth. Of course, this is a wide time gap and varies from person to person. If you ever have any concerns, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor for reassurance.
As for the amount of blood, you’ll experience a heavy, dark red flow at first which will reduce overtime to simply creamy yellow stains. You’ll also likely pass some blood clots, and while this is normal, it’s good to keep track of. Keep an eye on the blood clots you pass, and let your midwife know if you pass a lot of large blood clots or more than a pint of blood in the first 24 hours. These symptoms are rare, but they can indicate primary postpartum hemorrhage, which is experienced by five in 100 women. Again, this number is low, but it is worth paying attention to, especially if you give birth and recover outside of a hospital setting.
How long do you bleed after a C-section?
As with vaginal birth, some bleeding after a cesarean or C-section is to be expected. You will likely experience some vaginal bleeding for two to six weeks after giving birth. This is completely normal and is no cause for panic. The blood comes from where the placenta was attached to your womb and will be heaviest on the first day.
Over the first few weeks after you have your baby, the bleeding should become less heavy, and it will be a light pink or brown in appearance.
Your bleeding may be a little heavier first thing in the morning or if you’ve been more active than usual (this may mean something as simple as vacuuming).
My postpartum bleeding stopped and started again - why?
It’s important to remember that it is normal for lochia to stop and start. This can be caused by a change in hormones or activity, and is very common. As the body’s hormones fluctuate and adjust to no longer having a baby inside, this bleeding may subside and return. One 1997 study found that the median duration of postpartum bleeding was 27 days, and didn’t vary by the age, sex or weight of the infant, so you can expect some bleeding for quite some time after you’ve given birth.
How long does bleeding last after birth if breastfeeding?
- Invest in a few pairs of postpartum period underwear. This will remove the worry of having to change maternity pads every couple of hours and allow you to focus on taking care of yourself and your baby. These period panties should feel supportive and comfortable and provide you with a little extra reassurance during a time when you’re prone to leaking.
- Wear loose clothing and stay comfortable. There’s no rush to get back in a pair of jeans, and it’s best to try and stay cool down there to prevent infection.
- Take a sitz bath. After giving birth, you may have a wound in your perineal area, so it can help to soothe that wound by reducing the inflammation. Hygiene is more important now than ever, and you should aim to reduce your risk of infection as thoroughly as you can. Wash your hands before and after using the toilet and changing your pad/ underwear, and avoid touching any wounds or dressings if you can.
You may experience heavier bleeding of a brighter red color for a little while after you start to breastfeed. This change of color and intensity is caused by your body producing hormones when you breastfeed. This, in turn, causes the womb to contract, which may give you cramps and physical discomfort.
While breastfeeding may cause slightly heavier and differently-colored bleeding while you breastfeed, it should not extend the length of time for which you experience it. In fact, some nurses believe that breastfeeding can help to shrink your uterus back to the size it was before you became pregnant.
As with many bodily changes in the time immediately following the birth of your baby, it’s worth remembering that your body has already been through a lot of changes. Postpartum bleeding is normal, and while it may be uncomfortable, it is nothing to worry about. There are ways in which you can prepare for and deal with lochia:
Postpartum bleeding can be uncomfortable and even concerning, but rest assured that it a natural part of becoming a new mom. You can expect your flow to vary throughout the first six weeks of your baby’s life, and if you ever have any worries, there will always be someone you can turn to for reassurance and advice. If you’re thinking about making your life just a little easier with period underwear, click here to see our postpartum underwear range.