After childbirth, you want to think the worst is over with. You may already be pretty well aware that some bleeding after you have your baby is normal, but not really the full extent of the blood that may flow. Oftentimes, the period right after giving birth is referred to as “The Fourth Trimester” in that, while your baby is no longer inside you, you two are still bonded as one. Baby rests, and you recover – together.
But the one thing you may not be as prepared for is lochia, otherwise known as some heavy bleeding, feeling like one nonstop period. Oh, joy, right?
So, first things first: Just what is lochia? It is, as you gathered, a lot of blood. But it also is comprised of placental tissue, mucus, and bacteria coming from your uterus after your placenta was detached. It’s like Level Warrior period blood in that it isn’t just straight blood.
The most important thing to know is that lochia is normal. In fact, it isn’t just normal, its pretty inevitable. It doesn’t matter if you give birth vaginally or by cesarean: lochia is part of your body’s natural healing process, as growing a living human inside you is quite the feat.
In fact, so much of your body has gone into building a home for your baby (i.e., an entirely new addition: the placenta) that it cannot just all magically disappear once your baby is out. The new buildup inside of you must then come down, little by little, and be expelled. The placenta may be pushed out during birth, but the extra lining, padding, etc. will take some more time to shed and be expelled.
Typically, the uterus returns to its original state and shape in around six to eight weeks, but in that time period, expect the discharge.
It is also important to remember that every woman is different and so there is not one ‘typical’ experience across the board. In general, though, expect the lochia to gradually thin itself out, both in volume of flow and intense coloring of discharge. You should expect to start off with a heavy flow that fades to light spotting, with the color itself beginning as bright red then fading to pink, brown and then a yellow tinted white.
Also important to note? If you have given birth to twins or triplets, your lochia will generally run for longer and be heavier. (Sorry!)
During this time period, you will most likely be too sensitive for traditional pads and tampons – and may also experience to heavy a flow for those to contain. It can be helpful to have a couple of pairs of leak-proof underwear (and sleepwear!) on hand so that while you are experiencing this discharge, you do not also have to worry about bleeding through onto clothes and furniture.
One more little peace of mind at this time is nice!
In general, you can get through your period of lochia with no more than minor inconveniences, but bear in mind you may need to see a doctor if you experience an extremely heavy flow (soaking through a pad or leak-proof panty in an hour), you are passing a lot of clots, you have a fever or there is a foul odor versus the typical menstrual smell.