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Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. And those changes don’t necessarily stop the moment you deliver. Your body needs time to recover, which means you may still have some symptoms for days or even weeks after delivery.
One of those symptoms is postpartum bleeding. However, it’s normal to have some vaginal bleeding after delivery.
Here’s what you can expect based on the type of delivery you had, and how to know when you need to call your doctor.
The blood you see after childbirth is called lochia. It’s a type of discharge that’s similar to your menstrual period, and typically lasts for four to six weeks postdelivery. It contains:
- pieces of the uterine lining
- white blood cells
Like a period, this bleeding is caused by the shedding and restoration of your uterine lining.
At first, the lochia will be mostly blood. As the days and weeks pass, you’ll likely see more mucus than blood.
For the first one to three days after your baby is born, the blood you see will likely be bright or dark red. It may smell like the blood you typically shed during your menstrual period. There might also be a few clots in the blood, ranging from the size of a grape to the size of a prune.
Between days four and seven, the blood should turn a pinkish or brownish color. Clots should get smaller or disappear.
By the end of the first week, the discharge will likely be white or yellow in color. In three to six weeks, it should stop. Learn more about what to expect during a vaginal delivery.
If you had a cesarean delivery (C-section), you’ll likely have less lochia than you would after a vaginal delivery. Still, you’ll probably see some blood for a few weeks. The color of the blood will change from red to brown to yellow or clear just as you would see after a vaginal delivery.
At first, the bleeding will probably be heavy enough that you’ll need to wear a hospital pad. Your nurse may give you some of these extra-absorbent pads when you’re discharged.
As the bleeding slows, you can transition to a regular menstrual pad.
Make sure to change your pads often to prevent infection. Don’t use tampons until your doctor says it’s fine to do so. Once the bleeding is light enough, or you’re only seeing discharge, you can switch to a panty liner.
Shop for postpartum pads.
Bleeding should slow and then taper off within a few weeks after delivery. But a few things can temporarily increase the blood flow, including:
- getting out of bed in the morning
- breastfeeding (your body produces the hormone oxytocin while you nurse, which stimulates uterine contractions and accelerates healing)
- straining when urinating or defecating
If the bleeding gets heavy enough to soak through a hospital pad in less than an hour or doesn’t lessen after a few days, call your doctor. Also, tell your doctor if you notice:
- signs of infection, like foul-smelling discharge
- a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills
- blood that remains bright-red and heavy the second week
- a tender feeling in one or both sides of your tummy
- dizziness or feeling faint
- irregular heartbeat that starts racing
You should also tell your doctor if you have very large clots or a high number of clots. This could mean that your uterus is having trouble shrinking back to its original size.
Having a baby is a major transition phase in your life. It will take time for you to get used to the changes taking place in your body and mind after delivery.
Give yourself a chance to adjust. If you still don’t feel comfortable, either physically or emotionally, reach out to your doctor or another health professional for advice.