What is postpartum or postnatal bleeding?
Postpartum bleeding or postnatal bleeding is the bleeding you experience after you have had a baby. Bleeding after you’ve given birth is known as lochia (pronounced low-key-ah). It is normal and happens if you’ve had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean. It is your body’s way of getting rid of the extra blood and tissue that was needed to help your baby grow. It may also come from any cuts or tears you have had from giving birth.
What does postpartum bleeding look like?
This bleeding is heaviest in the few days just after giving birth and gradually becomes lighter. It will be bright red to start with and as it eases off it will turn a darker brown colour. You may notice some small jelly like blobs, known as clots. These are normal too.
Bleeding after birth; how long?
Women typically tend to bleed for around 4-6 weeks after giving birth, but just like a period, no two women’s experiences will be the same.
What is the treatment for postpartum bleeding?
It might be a bit of a shock to experience this bleeding, especially after 9 months of not having a period. In the early stages you’ll need some more absorbent pads, we love Natracare's maternity pads or WUKA's heavy flow period knickers which are suitable for use postpartum too. You’ll need to change these at least every 4 hours to start with and make sure you wash your hands to limit the chance of infection. Then, once your bleeding eases off, you can use regular period pads or period knickers. It’s not recommended to use a tampon or cup until you’ve had your 6-week check. If you do get any blood on your clothing or bedding, that’s where Save My Knickers can come to your rescue. Check out our how to page to see this in action.
Sometimes women experience period like cramps as their womb contracts back to its pre-birth shape; a hot water bottle might help with this.
What can increase bleeding after birth?
There are a few things than can increase bleeding after birth;
- If you’re breast feeding, you may notice an increase in bleeding as you do so due to your womb contracting as you feed.
- Gentle exercise, even a short walk, can increase the bleeding in the very early days so try not to do anything too strenuous. For guidance on returning to exercise after having a baby we recommend you check out Animated Physiotherapy’s advice.
- Due to the shape of your womb, you might also notice an increase in bleeding first thing in the morning after you get out of bed or if you stand up after a long period of sitting down.
Heavy bleeding after birth.
Heavy bleeding after birth is also known as post partum haemorrhage (PPH). This can be either:
- Primary post partum haemorrhage- when you loose a pint of blood or more within the first 24 hours.
- Secondary post partum haemorrhage- this is heavy bleeding between 24 horus and 12 weeks after birth.
If you think your bleeding is too heavy, getting heavier, has an offensive smell or you feel unwell you should contact your midwife or GP.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Information for you: Heavy bleeding after birth (postpartum haemorrhage).
NHS: Your body after the birth.
This is not a substitute for medical advice from a trained GP or midwife; if you have any doubts or concerns you should contact your GP or midwife or call NHS 111.