Lochia is otherwise known as the postpartum bleeding you have after birthing a baby. In a nutshell, it lasts 4-6 weeks, is normal, and happens whether you had a vaginal or cesarean delivery.
Now the details…
Lochia is different than the monthly bleeding you have while on your period. The placenta is a big reason for that. When you are pregnant, the placenta is attached to your uterine wall. It is the life-giving connection between you and your baby. Your placenta grows custom-sized to your little one, usually about 1/6th the size of your baby. Amazing, right?
When you have your period, you shed the lining of your whole uterus. Period bleeding lasts about a week and is over until the next month. After you have a baby, you have bleeding from the wound in your uterus that is the same size and shape as the placenta. It takes 4-6 weeks for that wound to heal.
The uterus continues to cramp for several days or weeks after baby is born. Those cramps help the uterus go back to pre-pregnancy size, about the size of your fist. You may also feel more cramping when you are breastfeeding. Nursing your little produces oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions. It’s all connected and is helping your uterus go back to non-pregnant size.
How much bleeding?
During the first week postpartum, you can expect to bleed as much as a heavy period. You may also see some blood clots. Most mom’s report some surprise at the amount of bleeding during that first week, so be prepared. Hospital or overnight pads are the way to go that first week. Tampons are a no-go because it can increase the risk of infection. Also, who wants to insert anything in a sore, swollen, possibly repaired vagina? My guess is no one.
Because of the amount of bleeding and soreness, you may need extra time when going to the restroom.. A peri-bottle can come in really handy for clean up and decreasing any discomfort you may have when peeing. And seriously… this one right here …. it’s the best one.
Important note: If you are soaking 1 pad in 1 hour, and the clots are bigger than a quarter, you should call your provider.
During your postpartum recovery, things you should watch for:
- Fever or chills
- Body aches
- Foul smelling discharge
- Heavy bleeding (as mentioned above)
- Increased vaginal pain or soreness
- Pain at your incision or perineal repair site
If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to reach out to your OB provider.
After the first week postpartum, your bleeding should taper off. Sometimes during the first and second weeks, if you have a super active day, you may notice some heavier bleeding the next day. That fluctuation is normal and the lochia will regulate again. By week 3 or 4 you are having a very small amount of brown or white discharge. You get to exchange the pads for panty-liners. By your 6 week postpartum checkup with your provider, the lochia will most likely be gone.
We wish you a beautiful birth and a speedy recovery!
By: Lois Perks, Owner, Prodoula CD Labor, PPS, CBE