Postpartum Bleeding: What's Normal, What's Not, Causes
How long do you bleed after giving birth? Postpartum bleeding is the flow of blood that starts after delivery and continues for up to 10 days. Light bleeding and spotting after pregnancy can continue for up to four to six weeks after delivery.
After your nine months of pregnancy are over, you basically just give birth and then your body goes back to normal, right? Not really. There's a list of postpartum unpleasantness to look forward to after you deliver your baby. And lochia (i.e. the bleeding that happens after childbirth) is one of the biggest ones. This isn't exactly what you want to hear, but it's an important part of your snapback process. In this article, we'll explain why you have lochia. We'll also be answering the question: "how long do you bleed after giving birth?" First, we'll begin with your body's reason for lochia.
When you're pregnant, hormones cause the uterine lining to thicken to support the placenta. After delivery, the uterus begins to contract and shrink back down to its usual size, and that uterine lining sheds. This shedding is called lochia and it's not totally unlike menstruation, because it's made up of the same kind of blood and tissue. But lochia happens on a much larger scale because of how big the uterus grows to accommodate the pregnancy. It also lasts a lot longer than a normal period and goes through a few changes before finally stopping.
In the first days and weeks after delivery, lochia looks very similar to period blood. It's bright red in colour and the flow can be fairly heavy.
You might need to wear thicker maternity pads, and it's possible you may pass a small piece of placenta or what looks like tissue along with the blood.
After the first two weeks, the colour of your lochia will change from red to dark brown. And it will decrease in volume; eventually, it may become yellow and watery. You may also begin bleeding more irregularly rather than having a consistent flow all the time.
Typically women who have had a cesarean section will have less lochia. This is because the health professionals manually clean the uterus out with a swab. They do it to make sure they removed all of the placenta and membranes. That doesn't occur during a vaginal delivery, so those women will likely notice more bleeding and for longer.
Usually, lochia lasts for about six to eight weeks, so as long as you're within that window and your lochia is gradually decreasing in volume, it's probably normal. You can always ask your doctor about your lochia during your six-week postpartum checkup if you have any concerns.
However, there are some things to look out for. Passing clots, for example, are common during postpartum bleeding, but large ones should be monitored. Fever, severe pain or cramping that lasts more than a few days after delivery, and foul-smelling lochia are warning signs of infection. You should also contact your doctor if you have to change your pad more than once per hour.
If you're bleeding abnormally after delivery, there are several possible reasons:
- You could have a vaginal tear or bladder hemorrhage. This means the blood isn't actually coming from your uterus.
- It could equally be a previously undiagnosed bleeding disorder.
- Or there could be an issue with the overall contraction of your uterus.
When a woman has heavy lochia and the uterine fundus is not firm, she has a uterine atony. This happens because the uterus isn't contracting enough. There are placenta or membranes left inside the uterus. Or there is some other anatomical problem keeping the uterus from contracting, like a fibroid inside the uterine lining.
Any fever, severe pain, or foul odor accompanied with lochia should prompt a call to your doctor. Depending on how far along you are in the postpartum period, your doctor should also check the volume of your lochia.
When a mom is discharged from the hospital, she should expect the bleeding to gradually decrease over the next two weeks. If it's getting stronger, she should call her doctor immediately. It's also important to pay attention to how many sanitary pads you are changing throughout the day. That, as well as how much bleeding you notice each time you use the bathroom.