Whether you have had a normal delivery, a C-section, an episiotomy, a difficult birth or a natural one, there’s one thing you just cannot escape— postpartum bleeding. Bleeding after childbirth is mainly due to two reasons:
- The ruptured blood vessels are healing themselves and
- the uterus is doing some house-cleaning by discharging remnants from the pregnancy you have just completed.
This knowledge, however, doesn’t make it any better when you’re going through multiple pads in a day, sometimes with stitches in tow!
Here we answer some questions about postpartum bleeding, give you some hope as well as handy tips to ease the whole experience and get back to normalcy.
- How long will my post-partum bleeding continue?
Postpartum blood, also known as lochia, has tissue, blood, and mucus in it. Most women experience lochia discharge for four to six weeks after delivery. When it comes to lochia, there is no one definition of ‘normal.’
Some women have dark red clots at the beginning that gradually turn pinkish over time. Others may have alternating phases of heavy clots and light pinkish discharge. In any case, this release can be expected to last up to forty days post-delivery1.
- Is my bleeding getting out of hand?
Know when to worry.
Postpartum bleeding can be unique to each woman. Those with relatively heavier discharge may panic, especially when they check with friends and find out that they are indeed bleeding more. The first rule of thumb, don’t compare! Experiences can vary. Even your own second delivery could be very different from your first.
If you experience pain in your C-section stitches that gets worse, or if you are feeling dizzy and lightheaded with the bleeding, it is time to see a doctor.
- Is it lochia or is it my period?
Periods often return after lochia is complete, or later. Still, use a contraceptive.
This question is tough to answer unless the tissue you are expelling is tested at a lab. In some women who opt not to breastfeed, periods return soon after the discharge is complete, sometimes in a span of a few weeks.
There is reason to believe that breastfeeding delays menstruation2. However, note that you are still fertile even though you don’t have a period. Using a contraceptive after delivery is as important as is using it at any other time.
- Is my period cycle linked to my delivery mode?
There is no scientific evidence to corroborate this belief that many people hold. Whatever be the mode of delivery, your periods return around fifty days after birth if you aren’t breastfeeding and sometimes much later if you are. Also, your period cycle and duration may be entirely different from what you are used to. Give it time to settle.
- What is NOT a normal period?
Some changes might be extreme.
You may find that your cycle lasts two weeks or lesser. A hormonal supplement may be prescribed to help you if this is the case, only if you aren’t breastfeeding. It could also be that it takes six months or more for your periods to get back to their normal, pre-birth cycle.
If you experience very scant bleeding or a very heavy period, see a doctor to rule out deficiencies. If your PMS symptoms are worse than before or manifest after childbirth, seek help.
- Sherman, Dan, Samuel Lurie, Eugine Frenkel, Yaffa Kurzweil, Ian Bukovsky, and Shlomo Arieli. “Characteristics of normal lochia.” American journal of perinatology16, no. 08 (1999): 0399-0402. (https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-1999-6818 )
- Jacob, Suma, Natasha A. Spencer, Susan B. Bullivant, Sarah A. Sellergren, Julie A. Mennella, and Martha K. McClintock. “Effects of breastfeeding chemosignals on the human menstrual cycle.” Human reproduction19, no. 2 (2004): 422-429. (https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/19/2/422/2356292/Effects-of-breastfeeding-chemosignals-on-the-human )