Childbirth triggers a whole lot of changes in your body, just as conception and pregnancy did. Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things postpartum is the bleeding that requires an adult diaper or maternity pads. It isn't your period yet, even though it feels like one. This is a postpartum vaginal discharge called lochia.
What is lochia?
Lochia is the bloody vaginal discharge that all new moms women experience after giving birth. It doesn't matter whether you deliver via CS or vaginal delivery—you will experience lochia. It's more alarming and worrisome if you don't bleed after childbirth.
This discharge is the woman's body's way of getting rid of the blood from where the placenta attached itself in the womb. Lochia, also called postpartum period or postpartum bleeding, also contains mucus and tissue from the uterus as it shrinks down to its pre-pregnant size.
Is postpartum period normal?
In the Smart Parenting Village Facebook group, one mom asked if it was normal to bleed more than two weeks after giving birth. While she was not too alarmed about it, she wondered when it would stop.
Bleeding after giving birth can last from at least six to eight weeks, but some women continue to experience light bleeding until 12 weeks postpartum. It starts out heavier than your average period, but it should eventually taper off. You may need to change maternity pads every hour for the first three to 10 days. After that, you may be changing pads every three hours.
Dr. Marinella G. Abat, an obstetrician-gynecologist, described how lochia changes over time. "In the first three to four days, the discharge is usually red in color. In the next three to four days, the discharge becomes pinkish, and after 10 days, it will become light yellow and creamy in color."
Your postpartum period may also contain small to medium blood clots in the first few days—you will feel sudden gushes of blood when you stand up. Your discharge may also become heavier when you engage in strenuous activities. It is why you need your rest for the first six weeks postpartum.
If you're breastfeeding, it may lessen your lochia as it causes intrauterine contractions that help shrink the uterus back to its normal size. This is good because as your uterus shrinks, it helps close off blood vessels at the area from where the placenta detached.
When you should worry about your postpartum bleeding
According to the book What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, these are the red flags that warrant consultation with your doctor as soon as possible:
- You're bleeding very heavily, or you're soaking more than one pad within an hour.
- You are still passing large amounts of bright red blood beyond the first week after birth.
- Your discharge has a foul odor. It should smell like your typical menstrual flow.
- You're passing several large blood clots. Think lemon-sized clots or larger than two inches in diameter.
- Your bleeding slows or stops and then starts again.
- You're experiencing flu-like symptoms such as a temperature over 37.8-degree Celcius, severe dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
- You're feeling sharp pains or discomfort, with or without swelling, in your lower abdominal area beyond the first few days after birth.
If you experience any of the symptoms above, it may be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage. This severe condition can happen anytime within 24 hours after giving birth, which is usually caused by the placenta not detaching from the uterus properly, among other factors. It can also be related to infection. Postpartum hemorrhage can also happen between 24 hours and 12 weeks after giving birth.
You need to be extra careful about your vaginal hygiene after giving birth. Use pads not tampons, as the latter may introduce bacteria into your still-recovering reproductive system. Always go for clean, comfortable, and cotton underwear for proper ventilation. Lastly, you need to rest as your body heals inside.
This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.