The following post is intended to be informational only and should not be substituted for medical advice.
Giving birth is a bloody event… after all baby is entering the world by exiting your body. Most women are prepared for it to be a messy event, but many women aren’t aware that they will continue to bleed for days after the birth. This bleeding, known as lochia is the the shedding of blood lining the uterine wall – similar to the process of a period, only now there is nine months worth of blood to shed. Combine this with afterbirth pain, breast soreness, sleep deprivation, and a crying human being… and it’s no wonder this is considered to be one of the most difficult periods of a baby’s life.
Even though lochia is completely normal, it’s often not talked about. Women telling their birth stories never mention it, and it was just mentioned as a side note in the hospital birthing class that my husband and I took. It was talked about in more detail during the natural childbirth class that I took, but I still was surprised at the amount of blood that left my body, especially when the nurses would press down on my uterus (Which seems like an outdated practice. We don’t do this for any other animal, so I fail to see why it’s necessary for otherwise health mothers – but I digress). I could feel large amounts of blood and clots exiting my body – which did not for an exciting experience make.
Lochia typically lasts for 2-6 weeks, and will gradually decrease in color intensity (from red to pink to white) and amount. It can come and go for about 2 months. Lochia is a completely natural and normal part of the postpartum experience, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it.
Lochia is not typically painful.
- Avoid tampons and menstrual cups during this time, to avoid introducing foreign bacteria into your vagina. Use pads (disposable or reusable) or underwear during this time. I found incontinence underwear to be much more comfortable than the bulky pads the hospital has you wear (especially combined with my frozen postpartum underwear/pads recipe). Next delivery, I will be stocking up on these and bringing them to the hospital. Get your pregnancy size as your uterus takes a while to shrink back down to normal size. Change often to prevent irritation to the area, particularly if you have a tear or an episiotomy healing.
- Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or a hospital gown in case you get blood on your clothes.
- Place a disposable puppy pad, or small blanket you don’t mind dirtying underneath you in case you leak so you can easily swap it out without having to remake the bed.
- Empty your bladder often – even if you don’t feel the urge to go. A full bladder can push on the uterus making it difficult for it to contract and expel blood.
- Rarely, the condition can turn into a postpartum hemorrhage, a condition in which the uterus does not stop bleeding. It can be fatal if left untreated. Call your doctor or midwife right away if you soak through a pad in less than an hour for two or more hours, if you’re still bleeding after 6 weeks, pass clots larger than a golf ball (small clots are typically okay), feel weak or lethargic. And make sure to go to your postpartum doctors appointments.
And of course, if you have any questions or concerns about your own health, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or midwife. That’s what they’re being paid for after all!
Did you learn about lochia and postpartum bleeding in your childbirth class? What was your experience? What tips and tricks did you find helpful? Let me know in the comments below.