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Postpartum Bleeding - What you need to know

You’ve just become a mom. Your stitches still hurt and you’re still not sure how breastfeeding works. Never mind that — what’s with all this blood?

Regardless of whether you delivered vaginally or by Caesarean section, you'll still experience postpartum bleeding from your vagina. At first, it’ll be very heavy bleeding and red in colour, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It gradually gets less and less over the following days and weeks and will change to a brownish colour over time. It can last anywhere from two to six weeks after delivery (sometimes longer) — so you should seriously stock up on maternity sanitary pads.

Why Do You Bleed After Birth?

Lochia, as postpartum bleeding is called, is your body’s way of shedding the lining of your uterus. Like period discharge, the bleeding is the blood, cells, mucus, and tissues shedding from the womb once your baby has been born.

So, it’s Like a Period?

Sort of, except it’s much heavier, especially in the beginning. It might also be a slightly different colour. Expect to see the flow start off bright red, turn pinkish-brown, and finally, become creamy or off-white. Breastfeeding can make the bleeding redder or heavier.

How Long Will Postpartum Bleeding Last For?

Every person is different, but you can expect to experience postpartum bleeding for between two and six weeks.

New Born 2

Does This Mean I Can Use Tampons?

It’s recommended that you don't use tampons in the weeks after childbirth and stick to maternity sanitary pads. Wait until after your six-week check and your periods start again before using tampons.

Like Birth, Just Remember That Lochia is Normal

Nobody can ever fully prepare you for how messy birth and its aftermath are, but knowing that you’ll be bleeding afterwards is an important part of preparing for your life postpartum. Lochia is perfectly normal after birth, but if you do bleed for longer than outlined in the above stages, or if you aren’t feeling well, don’t hesitate to consult a nurse or your GP.

What is Postpartum Bleeding Like?

Lochia has three stages. They are:

  • Lochia rubraComprised of blood and shreds of foetal membranes, it’s generally quite red and may last for between three to five days following birth. You’ll probably change your pad quite often.

  • Lochia serosa. The lochia has thinned out and turned brownish or pink. Made up of predominantly red blood cells, cervical mucus, and micro-organisms, you’ll see it for around 5-10 days following birth.

  • Lochia alba. Whitish or creamy-yellow, it typically lasts from two to six weeks after delivery. It contains fewer red blood cells and more white blood cells, tissue, mucus, and again, micro-organisms.

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Frequently Asked Question: Maternity

As most of us know, the earliest sign is a missed period but this could also be down to stress or other factors. The easiest and quickest way to answer your question is to take a home pregnancy test, which can be taken from the first day of your missed period. They're usually pretty reliable but if you're unsure, contact your GP and get booked in.

In most cases it's totally safe to have sex when pregnant, though you may want to avoid putting too much pressure on your bump and breasts! If you have a high-risk pregnancy or have had any bleeding then it's worth consulting your midwife or doctor first, just to be on the safe side.

Unfortunately the answer is yes. As the bleeding is mostly the lining of the womb it's totally normal to have vaginal bleeding after a caesarean, just as you would for a vaginal birth.

We would advise against this straight after birth as your vagina needs time to heal and using internal protection could increase the risk of infection. You're best to wait for your 6 week check, where your midwife will inform you if you're okay to use tampons.

It can take a while for your menstrual cycle to get back into a routine and even then you may find that your cycle and flow are different. If you feel you need to change your tampon every 2 hours or less, then it would be wise to switch up absorbencies on these heavier days...and don't worry this is quite normal and nothing you need be alarmed by.

Got a question you’ve been too embarrassed to ask? Wondering if what you are experiencing during pregnancy is normal?

Join our Lil-Lets Talk community for empowering conversations for people with periods.

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