It is usual for you to experience vaginal bleeding and discharge after your childbirth, whether vaginal delivery or a cesarean section.
The bleeding is known as lochia, and it is heaviest in the first few days after delivery. Lochia results from the shedding and restoration of your uterine lining. It is your body’s way of getting rid of excess blood and tissues in your uterus that previously aided the baby’s growth during pregnancy.
What does lochia contain?
Lochia is quite similar to the menstrual period. It mostly contains:
- red blood cells
- white blood cells
- particles of the uterine lining
Bleeding after a vaginal delivery
The blood you will typically see in the first 1 -3 days after delivery is bright red or a little dark red and may contain some clots. These clots may smell like your normal menstrual blood and shouldn’t be bigger than a quarter coin. By day 4 – 7 after delivery, the clots would’ve disappeared or gotten smaller, and the discharge would be pinkish or brownish.
After the first week, the discharge should turn whitish or yellowish. Then, normally between 3 – 6 weeks, the discharge is expected to cease.
Bleeding after a cesarean section delivery
Mothers who had a cesarean section delivery would likely have less lochia than those who had a vaginal delivery. And the colors of their lochia are similar. Similarly, their vaginal discharge will last for a few weeks, and the color of the blood will change colors from red to brown to yellow and eventually clear.
What’s normal and what to do if you’re bleeding
After giving birth, you will need maternity pads to absorb all the blood discharged from your body, and the flow will most likely be heavy. When the bleeding lessens, you can switch to regular menstrual pads. To avoid possible infections, you need to change those pads regularly. And tampons are not recommended due to risks of infection.
Some strenuous activities can put pressure on your tummy, which results in an increasing amount of bleeding. These activities include straining when urinating or defecating, exercising, getting out of bed in the morning, and breastfeeding.
When to call your doctor
If the bleeding is heavy — the maternity pad gets soaked in less than an hour and does not recess— you might be experiencing postpartum hemorrhage. This condition is a very serious state that leads to a drastic drop in blood pressure, reducing blood supply to vital organs and possibly resulting in death.
This condition is most likely to happen within the first 24 hours after delivery, but it can also occur anytime within the first 12 weeks after giving birth. Postpartum hemorrhage occurs in about 5% of women who give birth.
Because of the seriousness of the condition, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible. So, call your doctor if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Faint feeling
- Blurred vision
- Clammy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Blood clots bigger than a plum
- Bright red bleeding after the third day you deliver your baby
- Bleeding that doesn’t slow down or stop and soaks more than one sanitary pad an hour
Recovery and getting back to normal
Giving birth is a miraculous phenomenon that will forever change your life. Your body will need time to heal and recover from both the pregnancy journey and the birthing session. Take good care of your body and allow yourself to adjust to the postpartum phase. Remember that there is always help from professionals and family members.