Bleeding following a Cesarean section (C-section) is a normal part of recovery from childbirth. After pregnancy, your body expels leftover mucous, blood, and tissue through your vagina. This substance is known as lochia.
You may experience lochia for up to six weeks, but the color and amount of the lochia will diminish with time. You may also experience pink or watery discharge from your incision following a C-section.
Read on to learn what to expect during recovery from a C-section, and what symptoms may indicate a need to call your doctor.
You will experience heavy, dark-red bleeding following your C-section that should diminish after a few days. You may also notice clotting during the early days of the postpartum period. Clots can range in size, and may be as large as a plum.
Following a C-section, you may experience less bleeding after 24 hours than someone who has given birth vaginally.
In the days that follow your C-section, your bleeding should get lighter. The lochia will change in color as well, turning brown, lighter red, light pink, and finally, white after a few weeks. You may also discharge a few more clots, but they should be smaller and come less often than in the early postpartum days.
It may take up to six weeks for light bleeding to stop.
Bleeding that resumes after four to six weeks of delivery may be the sign of your menstrual period. If you’re breastfeeding, it may take longer for your period to return.
Following a C-section, you’ll need to manage both vaginal bleeding as well as your incision site.
Use sanitary pads to absorb the bleeding following a C-section. You may need a more absorbent, thick pad in the first few days after delivery.
As the bleeding gets lighter, you should be able to adjust the thickness of the sanitary pads as well as how often you change them. You may find a thinner sanitary pad absorbs the lochia after a few days, and you may only need a panty liner a few weeks after your C-section.
Avoid using tampons following a C-section or vaginal delivery. Discuss the use of tampons with your doctor at your six-week postpartum checkup, and refrain from using them until you’ve been given the OK from your doctor.
Breastfeeding may help lighten your bleeding after a C-section. This is because your uterine muscles and the surrounding blood vessels contract during breastfeeding.
These contractions lighten bleeding, but can be painful in the days following delivery. You may want to discuss pain relievers with your doctor, or apply warm compresses to the abdomen to relieve pain from these contractions.
You may notice more bleeding as you increase your activity level in the weeks that follow your C-section. Be mindful that physical stress on your body in the postpartum period can cause more bleeding.
Try to limit activity while you recover, and follow your doctor’s recommendations for when you can resume certain activities, like lifting heavy objects.
Your incision may drain in the early days following your C-section, but you should not experience bleeding.
Care for your incision by keeping it clean. Gently wash the incision site with soap and water, and allow it to air-dry.
Ask your doctor before washing the area for the first time to make sure that it’s alright to get the area wet. They may initially recommend keeping the site dry for the first couple of days following your delivery.
Additionally, follow your doctor’s instructions for care of the incision site.
Bleeding that increases over time following a C-section is a cause for concern and should be reviewed by your doctor immediately. Contact your doctor if:
- you must change your sanitary pad more than once an hour
- bleeding becomes heavier or darker in color
- blood clots are larger than a plum
- your discharge has an unusual smell
Other signs of postpartum complications, in addition to changes in bleeding, include:
- flu-like symptoms, such as fever or chills
- fainting or dizziness
- pain while urinating
Following a C-section, monitor your incision site for signs of infection. If your incision site begins to bleed or swell, you should contact your doctor.
You will need to take care of your body for several weeks following a C-section. This procedure is considered a major surgery, and you need time for your body to recover.
You should rest following a C-section. This includes:
- spending time in bed
- eating nutritious food
- drinking plenty of water
- getting enough sleep
Your doctor may recommend that you take brief walks following a C-section and increase your activity, little by little, each day.
Avoid strenuous activity like lifting or engaging in household chores until your body can handle it. Make sure to take a step back on physical activity if you experience bleeding or other signs of fatigue.
Discuss appropriate pain management following your C-section, including medications and other methods of relieving pain, like heating pads. If you’re breastfeeding, your doctor can prescribe medications that won’t affect your milk.
Bleeding after a C-section is to be expected and will reduce with time. You will notice heavier bleeding immediately after your C-section, and it will decrease over time. Bleeding should stop completely after four to six weeks.
Increased bleeding can be a sign of postpartum complications or excessive physical activity.
Call your doctor if you experience heavier bleeding or clotting, bleeding from your incision site, or other concerning symptoms following your C-section.