When a woman becomes pregnant, her body will undergo various changes both physically and emotionally. These changes may not necessarily stop after delivery to her newborn. The changes may vary depending on if the new mother chooses to have a vaginal delivery or C-section, however one thing that will remain the same is vaginal bleeding and discharge after birth. This is also known as postpartum bleeding or lochia. It is normal to have some vaginal bleeding after delivery and it is also how the woman’s body gets rid of any extra blood and tissue that remains in the uterus that has assisted the growth of her baby.
Most new mothers assume that everything will be done once the baby has been given birth, but it is important to remember that the woman’s body will have undergone significant trauma every time she has given birth and that it will need time and patience for the body to recover. Every new mother will face postpartum effects with one of them being lochia. If you are here to find out what lochia is, you’ve come to the right place!
What is postpartum bleeding or lochia?
Postpartum bleeding or Lochia consists of blood, mucus and uterine tissue. When a woman is pregnant, hormones will cause the uterine lining to thicken to support the placenta and accommodate the baby. Once the mother has given birth, the uterus will begin to shrink and contract back down to its pre-pregnancy size and shed the uterine lining.
Postpartum leeding or Lochia can be made up of a number of things like placental tissue that was left behind during delivery, thickened endometrium that is no longer needed, post pregnancy blood from where the wound site occurred or even where the placenta was detached from the uterine wall.
The woman’s body is a wonderful thing that should not be taken advantage of especially after giving birth to a newborn. The body is trying to repair itself and the least that can be done is giving its necessary time to regenerate.
What Does Lochia Look Like?
Postpartum bleeding or Lochia initially will look very similar to period that is bright in red colour with very heavy blood flow. The new mother may probably need to purchase some maternity pads that are thicker than normal ones to assist with her postpartum bleeding. Some blood clots and smaller pieces of placenta may come out along with the blood, so don’t be alarmed when there are pieces of what looks like tissue is discharged.
The colour of the lochia will also change from red to a darkish brown and eventually become yellow and watery.
How long do you bleed after giving birth?
Postpartum bleeding/lochia can generally last up to 10 days after giving birth although some light bleeding and spotting can continue to between 4-6 weeks after delivery. Though this generally depends on person to person and the pregnancy.
The first day of postpartum bleeding or lochia will usually be a heavy flow that will soak up an entire maternity pad in a couple of hours and the occasional one or two clots. The next couple of days will ease up and become more moderate and the blood clots will become smaller with the colour of the blood changing.
Towards the end of the 10 days, your bleeding flow will have become noticeably lighter with the blood also turning a more pinkish red blood. Less blood clots will appear on the maternity pad with some that are hardly stained.
The new mother should see a decrease of lochia becomes less and less over the time frame provided above. However, if there is an increase instead, a doctor should be alerted immediately.
What causes postpartum bleeding?
Whether the choice of delivery is a vaginal delivery or C-section, the mother’s body is ridding itself of all the extra blood and tissue that was needed to nourish the baby during pregnancy.
Mothers that opt for a C-section instead of vaginal deliveries will have significantly less amount of postpartum bleeding in comparison. That is because the doctors will manually clean the uterus out with swabs to remove all the placenta and membranes during the delivery of the newborn. This doesn’t happen during vaginal deliveries hence why women will notice more bleeding for a longer period of time in comparison to mother’s that had C-sections.
What’s the difference between lochia and your period?
Although posrpartum bleeding or lochia will sound extremely similar to menstruation as it’s both made up of the same kind of blood and tissue, lochia will happen on a larger scale due to how big the uterus will grow during the mother’s pregnancy. It will also last significantly longer than a normal period cycle, going through various changes before stopping. After giving birth, the colour of lochia that will come out typically dark red in colour.
Periods also will not have any components like mucus and tissue from the uterus as well. The bleeding where it’s at its heaviest will typically last for up to 10 days – much longer than periods. It will slowly then turn into lighter spotting after the colours it will turn into throughout those weeks.
The change in the colour of the blood as mentioned above is normal. That being said, the visible clots that will be discharged along with the blood for the first few days after giving birth is normal as well.
After being discharged from the hospital, the new mother will notice heavier bleeding than usual when the newborn is being brought home. This is because she is moving around more than usual, this is why it is critical for the mother to stay off her feet and rest more after being discharged.
It is also normal to sometimes feel a gush of blood flow when the mother stands, this happens with the way a vagina is shaped. Blood will start collecting in a cup-like area in the vaginal whilst sitting or lying down. Once standing, it will suddenly gush out.
During the first 10 days whilst the flow is heavier, maternity pads are recommended. Once it has lightened and only light bleeding or spotting happens, the mother is able to switch to sanitary pads during this period. Using a tampon is not allowed as it could lead to a serious infection.
When to Call Your Doctor?
Extremely heavy bleeding after giving birth is called postpartum hemorrhage, it most likely to happen during the first 24 hours after delivery but can sometimes happen anytime within the first 12 weeks after giving birth.
This is serious as it can cause a massive drop in the new mother’s blood pressure and if the pressure gets too low, organs inside the new mother’s body won’t be getting enough blood needed. It can cause shock to the mother’s body and can cause death. It is important to immediately contact the doctor or rush to the hospital if the mother is showing any of these symptoms or signs.
These signs include, blood clots that are bigger than a plum, chills, clammy skin, rapid heartbeats, dizziness, nausea, faint feeling, blurred vision, bright red bleeding beyond the 3rd day of your lochia happening (remember the colour of the blood is supposed to change and become lighter) and also bleeding that soaks more than one maternity pad an hour that doesn’t seem to slow down or stop.
This is extremely important to keep track of as it can lead to serious repercussions and sometimes death. Also, take note and inform a doctor immediately if the new mother has noticed any signs of infection in her lochia such as foul smelling discharge and if the new mother has noticed large clots or a high number of clots in her lochia. This could mean that her uterus is having trouble shrinking back to its pre-pregnancy size.
Tips on Postpartum Bleeding or Lochia
The new mother will tend to notice her bleeding to be heavier in the mornings as the blood will begin to pool during sleep at night. Any sort of gentle exercise can also cause the bleeding to become heavier. This includes any quick vacuum of the bedroom or even the living room! Postpartum bleeding or Lochia will tend to be heavier the more active the new mother is, so try to take it easy as much as possible to allow the body to heal.
Breastfeeding makes the mother’s body release oxytocin which makes the womb contract and produce more and redder lochia blood.
Some tips that can be done to prompt the new mother’s uterus to contract more rapidly, the first and most important one is – REST! Nothing better than resting and letting the body heal. If families are able to afford it, having a confinement nanny to help massaging the new mother’s uterus is helpful too. As mentioned earlier, breastfeeding assists as well.
Remember that giving birth to a newborn is not only a major transition phase in the parents lives but also on the new mother’s body. It will take time to adjust and getting used to the changes happening in both the families lives and mother’s body and mind after the delivery.
If the new mother feels like she is still having difficulty with any aspect of her body and readjusting, contact your doctor or any other professional to help with this period.