Managing Postpartum Bleeding
All women who experience childbirth, no matter if the birth was vaginal or via C-section, will experience post-partum bleeding. This bleeding is commonly referred to as lochia, a Greek word meaning “relating to child birth.”
The bleed itself is the result of blood vessels left exposed by the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. These blood vessels should eventually close themselves off as your uterus continues to contract over the next several days. Even so, your post birth bleeding can be alarming.
The blood will be the heaviest in the first hours to 4 days following the birth. During this time you should expect bleeding that is much heavier than your period and clots the size of small grapes. During this time you will likely be given hospital compression panties as well as very large, thick pads to wear. You may also be given absorbent pads, often called ‘chucks’ to lie on.
As the initial bleed begins to weaken and you are discharged from the hospital (likely with additional heavy duty sanitary products) you may begin using standard menstrual pads to manage your bleed. It is important that you do NOT use tampons at this time, and not again until at least 6 weeks post-partum. Your flow will greatly weaken and begin to turn from bright red to light pink, and eventually dark brown in the coming days and weeks. This phase tends to last 2-3 weeks.
The final stage of lochia comes in a white to yellowish discharge that may appear creamy. This final discharge consists of uterine cells as well as left over white blood cells from your uterus. Generally a plain panty liner is sufficient for this phase.
During your recovery period you may experience instances of increased flow or small gushes. These are normal. Gushes can occur after sitting or lying for an extended period of time, allowing flow to pool in the vagina, and then flow out all at once.
Increased flow may also be a sign that you need to slow down and get more rest. If reduced activity does not slow your flow, or if you notice a foul smell or clots that are golf ball size or larger, you should call your OBGYN or head to the hospital immediately.