All About Postpartum Bleeding

When a woman gives birth for the first time she often finds herself surprised about a lot of different things. Contractions might have felt very different than she imagined, her delivery might have gone differently than she hoped, and caring for a newborn might be more difficult that she’d thought it would be.

While labor, delivery and caring for a newborn all come with some majorly surprising elements, there’s one thing nearly all women are surprised by: their postpartum experience.

In our society we talk a lot about pregnancy, delivery, and newborn care and not a whole lot about what happens to the mother's body after the baby makes their grand exit. If you’ve got a baby on the way this article will help you understand what to expect when it comes to one element of the postpartum experience: postpartum bleeding.

{ MORE: How to Tell the Difference Between the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression }

What is postpartum bleeding?

Postpartum bleeding, often called lochia, is the vaginal bleeding that women experience after they have a baby. Lochia is often very heavy or moderately heavy for about a week to ten days after delivery before the flow begins to slow.

Many women experience some bleeding or spotting for up to six weeks after delivery. Whether you deliver vaginally or by C-section, vaginal bleeding occurs because your body needs to get rid of all the excess blood and tissue that was used to nourish your baby while you were pregnant.

How do you manage postpartum bleeding?

Postpartum bleeding can be managed much like a period but with one exception- you should only use pads for at least six weeks after delivery.

While you’re in the hospital (and the bleeding is at its heaviest) you’ll likely  be given mesh underwear fitted with extra large and absorbent pads. Once you head home, you should be able to manage your postpartum flow with regular or slightly larger than regular maxi pads.

One other thing to note: be sure to take it easy after delivery, too much movement or strain on the body can cause bleeding to get heavier or to pick back up once it has begun to taper off.

When should you be concerned?

While it might feel a little concerning to see so much blood in the days after delivery, most often there’s no cause for concern.

You should reach out to your doctor if you are passing large clots, bleeding bright red blood after 3 to 4 days, if you notice a foul smell, or if you feel like something’s not right, as you may have an infection or another issue that could be a cause for concern.

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All About Postpartum Bleeding

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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