Postpartum bleeding is a normal part of the postpartum period. This phenomenon, although very uncomfortable, is completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of. You have bleeding after giving birth and you wonder about its origin? We explain how it works and how to better live this moment as a young mother!
What is lochia or postpartum bleeding?
Lochia, also called postpartum bleeding. It is bleeding or vaginal discharge that occurs naturally after giving birth. During pregnancy, coagulation is higher than usual due to several hemostatic factors (i.e., factors that stop blood). This is completely normal and is part of the factors that prepare for the delivery of the baby while you are still pregnant. They will in fact accompany the healing of the uterine wound that appears after the expulsion of the placenta.
They eventually stop naturally. This blood loss after childbirth is in fact a mixture of blood, cervical mucus but also uterine residues in the form of clots. It includes placental membrane debris. Bleeding after giving birth comes from the placental wound, where the placenta was located. This blood loss is much more significant than menstrual bleeding, since on average, women lose 500ml. Women who have given birth by caesarean section will have lighter bleeding but also longer.
This allows the uterus to return to its original size, thanks to the contractions after delivery called trenches.
What is the usual color and texture of lochia?
As previously mentioned, the lochia is a mixture of several substances from the placental wound. At the beginning, during the first three days, the postpartum blood loss is very bloody, light red in appearance, then it gradually becomes pinkish, and finally brown at the end. It is in fact theoxidation of the blood over time that causes this phenomenon. The color evolves as the days go by. Breastfeeding could help to reduce its length: indeed, when a woman breastfeeds she secretesoxytocin during the feeding which will trigger more effective contractions, these famous trenches, to make disappear all that is still contained in the uterus.
How long does bleeding last after childbirth?
The duration depends on the woman, whether she is breastfeeding or not, but also on the nature of her delivery: Caesarean or vaginal delivery. However, it is estimated that they last up to a month and a half, becoming weaker and weaker over time.
First days after delivery
During the first few days after delivery, the lochia is red, liquid in consistency and bleeding is very heavy. The secretions during the first few days are composed of blood, uterine mucosa, placental membranes, vernix, lanugo and sometimes meconium. Your midwife at the maternity hospital may come and inspect them to make sure everything is normal. Don't hesitate to ask her about future contraception!
One week post-delivery
About a week after the delivery, the bleeding will tend to become brownish, still liquid but with a weaker flow. It is composed only of blood serum, white blood cells and lymphatic fluid. Since the secretions are no longer so abundant and you are back at home with greater ease to rinse them, you can use menstrual panties dedicated to a heavy flow: the sanitary napkins used until then may seem uncomfortable or irritating.
Two weeks after giving birth
After two weeks, your discharge will change to a yellowish, creamy consistency. It is also weaker during this period and its composition changes as it is composed of dead cells mixed with mucus and other bacteria. In fact, after 20 days postpartum, the phase of the "little return of the layers" appears. This is actually a bleeding phase that can last up to a month due to the hormonal drop. It should not be confused with the real return of childbirth.
Three weeks postpartum
3 weeks after giving birth, the color of the discharge becomes whitish, the consistency is liquid and its intensity is low.
What are the recommendations for hygiene with lochia?
Even if the lochia is a totally natural phenomenon after birth, it is important to monitor its quality, quantity, appearance and smell and to respect a scrupulous intimate hygiene.
Banish internal sanitary protection
To protect yourself during the lochia, wearing tampons or any other internal protection is not recommended. In fact, as the cervix is not yet fully enclosed, it is better to use external sanitary protection such as menstrual panties. Be sure to change your protection regularly to avoid any risk of complications. In the same way, it is wiser to avoid all swimming, whether in the sea, the pool or even a bath, for 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. Indeed, this contributes to the proliferation of bacteria.
Prefer intimate cleansing with water
In order to avoid the development of bacteria, it is important to be careful with your intimate hygiene and to use only water so as not to attack it too much and not to take a vaginal shower. To avoid the risks of infections, wash your hands before and after changing your sanitary protection.
You can also rinse your intimate area with warm water after going to the bathroom. After childbirth, you may suffer fromabrasions or an episiotomy, so it's important not to irritate the area too much with too frequent or too irritating washing. Use a neutral PH soap for the rest of your body, and above all, allow yourself a few moments without underwear so that your genitals can breathe and dry: a short nap lying on a towel will do you a world of good!
When should I consult a doctor about lochia?
It is important to monitor the lochia, its appearance, its quantity, etc. If unusual bleeding appears, i.e. bleeding that smells bad, is more intense and is accompanied by other symptoms such as pelvic pain, fever andrapid pulse, consult your doctor or gynecologist: it may be an infection of the uterus (endometritis) or an infection of the fallopian tubes (also called salpingitis). Very heavy to heavy bleeding may be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage. See your health care provider promptly for appropriate treatment.
FAQs on postpartum lochia and bleeding
What is postpartum lochia and bleeding like?
The color and quantity of discharge change naturally over time and gradually disappear. It is still necessary to monitor their appearance to ensure that there are no infections.
How can I stop the lochia?
Lochia usually disappears after a month and a half. Breastfeeding will tend to reduce the duration of lochia.
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