Right after giving birth, you might think that all the symptoms that you’ve been wrestling with over the last 9 months will be gone, that’s not always the case. Most moms will still experience some postpartum bleeding. Worry not if your nurse instructs you to attach three super-heavy-flow pads to your undies, bleeding after birth is normal and temporary. However, it is necessary to know what to expect, what’s normal, what’s not, and how to handle it.

What is Lochia?

Postpartum bleeding, a.k.a lochia, is a normal vaginal discharge that happens when your womb sheds the blood, mucus and uterine tissue that has lined your uterus while you were pregnant. No matter what kind of delivery method you went through, you might experience lochia.

How Long Does Lochia Last?

Lochia normally lasts around 4 to 6 weeks after birth. But rest assured if your bleeding lasts more than 6 weeks as it’s normal too. The lochia is typically heavier and more intense during the first few days. However, it will gradually lessen as time goes on.

Don’t mistake postpartum hemorrhage for postpartum bleeding. The latter is often the loss of a pint of blood within the first 24 hours following childbirth. Postpartum hemorrhage, which happens in 1% to 5% of births, is not normal and needs immediate medical treatment.

What’s Normal Lochia?

Normal lochia looks just like a heavy period at first with the red to browny color and has a similar, musty smell. But it will become lighter in color and flow as the days and weeks go on. Below are what you can expect in details:

  • 0 to 5 days after birth: Postpartum bleeding is heavy, fresh red to brownish-red blood and may contain some clots (no bigger than the size of a plum).
  • 5 to 10 days after birth: Lochia may be darker brown or pinkish red blood, becoming lighter and thinner than it was before. A few small clots might still occur earlier during this time.
  • 10 days to 6 weeks after birth: The discharge becomes so much lighter that your sanitary towels might be hardly stained. Clots should not happen during this period.

If you’re active or breastfeeding, expect to experience more lochia. Also, the flow might be different at certain times of day, like heavier in the morning.

When to Call the Doctor

Lochia is normal but watch it closely as it can also signal a problem. If you experience any of these concerning symptoms below, call your doctor:

  • Large clots: Clots that are larger than plum-sized might be symptoms of primary postpartum hemorrhage.
  • Foul smell: If the discharge has a foul smell, it could signal an infection. Normal lochia smells like a normal period.
  • Severe pain or fever: Call your doctor ASAP as they are also signs of infection.
  • Heavy bleeding: Watch out if the bleeding doesn’t lessen as time goes on or you need to change one every hour. Head to the emergency room ASAP as it might signal a problem with the uterus, a bleeding disorder or late postpartum hemorrhage – which might even cause death.

How to Handle Postpartum Bleeding

The first thing you need to do when handling lochia is go for absorbency. Snag some super-thick pads from the hospital and also prepare some adult underwear like Depends or heavy pads at home.

You can change to a thinner pad or absorbent underwear, like Thinx, and later pantiliners once the flow lessens. Definitely don’t use tampons for the first six weeks postpartum as they can be very dangerous.

Here are some other tips to take notes:

  • Take it easy when possible: Overexertion only makes it worse as it will slow the process of the lochia lightening up.
  • Pee often: Even when your bladder isn’t totally full, pay a frequent visit to the bathroom. Empty your bladder to help the uterus contract and expel everything it needs to.
  • Prepare your Peri bottle and sitz bath: Especially after vaginal birth. Using them to rinse helps you keep your sensitive parts clean gently.

Postpartum bleeding might come as a shock as you didn’t expect it at all. However, with this blog, we hope that you feel more prepared about what’s to come!