Postpartum Discharge: Lochia Explained

You may not have heard the word lochia before, but it’s the name given to the vaginal discharge following childbirth. Lochia doesn’t just refer to the vaginal bleeding, it also incorporates the tissue and bacteria that you will pass. Lochia can last anywhere from two to six weeks.

What is lochia like?

The lochia will change colour overtime. It will probably be bright red at first, then brown, and perhaps light pink towards the end, but this is different for each woman. For the first few days, the lochia may have a metallic smell reminiscent of menstrual blood.

The discharge may be intermittent or an even flow. You may notice some clots – these come in all sizes, big and small, and are usually nothing to worry about. A couple of days after the birth, you should notice your discharge becoming lighter and less like menstrual blood. About a week later, the discharge will be white, or almost white, in colour. After this time, you may have lochia for a few weeks longer, but it will be a lighter discharge.

Breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract, and this can cause a heavier flow during or immediately after feeds. Oxytocin released during feeding causes the uterus to contract, which will speed healing, but can also increase bleeding temporarily. If you find these contractions uncomfortable, speak to your healthcare provider about safe pain medication to take while breastfeeding. You may notice an increased discharge in your sanitary pad, or upon standing up, directly after a feed.

If you have started taking progesterone-only birth control (such as the minipill or injection), you may experience spotting for another month.

What should I do?

There are a number of steps you can take to look after yourself while you experience lochia:

  • use the right protection – while the flow is at its heaviest, use heavy duty sanitary pads or maternity pads. As the lochia lessens, you will be able to start using regular sanitary pads. Do not use tampons for the first six weeks after the birth, because they can increase your risk of infection.
  • get as much rest as possible – easier said than done with a newborn in the house, but do try to take things easy. Overdoing it could lead to increased bleeding. Most healthcare providers suggest lifting nothing heavier than your baby until you are healed.
  • take extra bathroom breaks – try to visit the bathroom regularly. Your bladder may be less sensitive in the days following the birth, so you may be less aware of when you need to wee. A full bladder can restrict your uterus and cause increased bleeding and pain.

When to seek help

For most women, lochia is a completely normal part of a healthy postpartum recovery. It can, however, provide warning signs for when something isn’t right. Contact your doctor immediately if:

  • the discharge is still bright red when your baby is four days old
  • after lightning, your lochia is now getting progressively heavier or turns red again
  • you are bleeding excessively (soaking through a sanitary pad in an hour)
  • you are passing clots bigger than a lemon
  • you have a fever and/or chills
  • your lochia has a foul odour

If you are feeling faint and suffering from excessive bleeding, seek immediate help.

Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Vaginal Bleeding After Delivery; What’s Going on Down There?

Whether you enjoyed your pregnancy or were less than thrilled with your pregnancy symptoms, you have your little bundle of joy to show for it. You also get to say goodbye to the physical changes and challenges of pregnancy. But before you can return to your pre-pregnancy self, there are some post-partum symptoms you will have to deal with.

From your milk coming in, to your uterus contracting, there is a lot going on. For example, one symptom, which occurs after you give birth is lochia. Lochia is the vaginal discharge that occurs after you deliver.

You will have lochia even if you delivered via a C-section. Lochia consists of blood, mucus and small amounts of tissue from the uterus. The bleeding is heaviest for about the first ten days after giving birth. It tends to be dark red at first and will become pink, brown and eventually a yellowish-white discharge.

You may experience the discharge for several weeks after giving birth. Although it can vary, most women experience lochia for about two to four weeks. But the good news is the discharge gets lighter gradually. For example, after about a week, lochia may change to a light, watery, pink discharge. As it tapers off, some women may only have intermittent spotting for a few more weeks before it eventually stops.

Managing Lochia

There is no special management needed for lochia, but there are a few things to keep in mind. During the first few days after delivery when lochia is the heaviest, you’ll likely need a heavy duty sanitary pad. In order to prevent infection and irritation, make sure you change your pad at least every four hours if you had a perineal tear or an episiotomy. Tampons are a no-no since they can introduce bacteria and lead to an infection in your still recovering uterus.

In the first week after delivery, you may also want to skip wearing your favorite undies and outfits even if you fit into them immediately. Lochia can be pretty heavy in the first few days, and leaks are possible.

Also, give yourself permission to take it easy as you are recovering. Pregnancy and childbirth are not always a walk in the park. Doing too much too soon can increase discharge.

Keep in mind, just because you are experiencing vaginal bleeding, it does not mean you are protected from becoming pregnant. Ovulation is possible four weeks after birth. After you heal (in about four to six weeks), if you are up to having sex, be sure to use contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

How do I Know if There is a Problem?

In most cases, lochia occurs without complications and will gradually taper off. But there may be a problem if you are bleeding excessively. Excessive bleeding may be indicated by soaking a pad every hour or passing large clots. If you have excessive bleeding or pass large clots, always inform your healthcare provider.

If you have foul smelling lochia, chills or a fever, it can be a sign of an infection and requires medical attention. Don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you think something may be wrong. It’s always better to be on the safe side.

Written by Mary Ann DePietro @ writerlady34

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.