A baby is born, and the body’s job of recovery begins. Whether one has had a cesarean birth or vaginal birth, there will be blood. The bleeding that occurs after having a baby is postpartum bleeding and is a sign that the body is working to recover naturally.
What to Expect Postpartum Bleeding to Look Like
Lochia is a mixture of blood and uterine lining (tissue) that is expelled in the afterbirth of childbirth. This liquidity mass can be unsightly as it’s not quite the same consistency as a period. Lochia can appear mucusy or slimy. This is normal. The uterine lining will regenerate and heal the dinner-plate-sized hole that was left vacant by the placenta. Therefore, this shedding is a healthy part of postpartum healing.
How Does the Bleeding Change Over Time
As the body begins the self-healing process, one will notice that the blood is a bright red. Like that of the first days of menstruation. First, the lochia is orangey/red as it is tissue mixed with blood. This blood will begin to change in color and amount over time. As the weeks go on (yes weeks, and we’ll discuss that in the next paragraph), it’s expected that the blood will change in color, consistency, and volume. From the bright red sea will come a lighter wave of red in the pinkish form. Then as the body continues its journey to becoming back to self, the blood will turn to dark brown (dried blood color) and cease. Until the first, after delivery menstruation happens. Anywhere from 6 weeks postpartum up to 12 months.
How Long Does the Postpartum Bleeding Last
Everybody’s body is different. Therefore the length that the body takes to expel and heal from birth will vary. In general, one can expect to have menstrual-like heavier bleeding for the first week after delivery. As the weeks roll on, postpartum bleeding will begin to subside. It will become more of a “spotting” nature. Be cognizant that the body is still very much in the healing state. Agitation or strenuous stress on the body can bring on waves of bleeding. If bleeding has subsided and then picks up again, that is a sign to give the body a rest. It takes on average 6-8 weeks for the uterus to recover from delivery. Penetration sex, tampons, menstrual cups, exercising, excessive movement & motion, and heavy lifting prematurely before the green light from one’s provider can all be culprits to reigniting bleeding.
Red Flags with Postpartum Bleeding
While bleeding is a normal and natural process of the postpartum aspect, there are occurrences that may arise that go above what is “normal” in the process of healing. In the instance of noticeable changes or differences, the best first step to do is to consult one’s provider or the individual that aided in the delivery process. Giving the heads up.
Here are some common red flags in postpartum bleeding and what makes these symptoms “red flags” and not “normal”?:
- Soaking a maxi pad in an hour
- This can be a sign of hemorrhaging
- Passing blood clots golf ball sized and larger
- This can be a sign of infection or retained
- Fever over 100
- Sign of postpartum eclampsia
- Excessive swelling in hands and feet, that does not subside with elevation and resting
- Postpartum eclampsia
- Extreme vomiting and/or nausea
- Indication of an internal infection, postpartum eclampsia, retained placenta
When it comes to one’s health, you can never be too aware, attuned, or in tune with the body. The voice of concern comes from the birther. Be loud and diligent with suspicions of concern in the healing process. If it is painful, if it is prolonging, if it is disrupting one’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being, there is a concern to reach out to someone with the ability to address and access it. Don’t wait until the 6-week follow-up appointment to do so.