Why is it important to pay attention to postpartum bleeding?

Updated: Jul 13

After you have a baby, you'll have some heavy vaginal discharge known as lochia. Lochia is made up of blood, mucus, and uterine membranes. The discharge is heaviest for the first few days and then slowly tapers until it stops completely 2 to 6 weeks post birth.

There is a common misconception that the blood comes from vaginal tearing, but it's actually from the placenta. A few minutes after the baby is born, the placenta will detach from the uterine wall and be birthed. If you have a vaginal birth, you'll push out the placenta, and if you have a c-section, your surgeon will remove it after they deliver the baby.

The placenta leaves an internal wound that bleeds. Your body will heal the wound by continuing to contract your uterus for a few days. These contractions are known as "after birth pains" and aren't nearly as intense as labor was. Most first time birthers barely feel them, or describe them as mildly uncomfortable. The discomfort increases with every baby you have.

The placenta is birthed after all pregnancies, so you'll bleed vaginally even if you have a c-section.

Your birth location will give you some large pads and disposable underwear for the first few days postpartum, and you'll want to have more on hand at home. You can use cloth or disposable menstrual pads, period underwear. You should never put anything into your vagina to manage bleeding (no tampons, menstrual cups, etc.). Check out this list of postpartum recovery must-haves.

Your bleeding is a vital sign:

In our society we pressure postpartum people to "bounce back" quickly. Get your body back, go back to work, pretend you didn't just have a baby. Please know: this is not normal. You need to rest after birth to heal your internal wound.

Bleeding should slowly taper and get lighter over the course of 2 to 6 weeks postpartum. If you notice your bleeding increases after activity, that's a sign that you're doing too much too soon. Rest more, if you can. Listen to your body. Consider creating a plan to stay in bed postpartum (check out our blog: 5-5-5 Rule for more).

When you go out for your first postpartum walk, or other physical activity, pay attention to your bleeding after. Did it increase? That's a sign that you're doing too much, too soon. Head back to bed and call on your village to support you.

When to be concerned?

Call your medical provider if you:

  1. Soak more than 1 pad per hour.

  2. Pass a clot larger than a golf ball size.

  3. Your bleeding changes color from brown back to bright red.

  4. You feel light headed, dizziness, weakness, nausea, or clammy.


To learn more about what to expect, and practical ways to prepare for postpartum, register for our next Preparing for Postpartum Workshop!

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