Every new mum bleeds after having a baby, whether it's a vaginal birth or a caesarean section. This bleeding is called lochia and it's how your body rids itself of the lining of the uterus after birth. It may come out in gushes or flow like a heavy period. The lochia will change colour and become lighter as your uterus heals. The flow will be heavy and bright red at first, and may have clots in it. Gradually, it changes to pink, then brownish and eventually, to a yellow-white.
Bleeding may last for as few as two to three weeks or as long as six weeks. The flow diminishes very gradually. The red lochia usually tapers off within about ten days, although it may start flowing again if you try to do too much too soon. If you see bright red blood, it's a sign for you to slow down.
Make sure you have plenty of maternity pads on hand before your baby is born. Tampons should not be used during this time as they can introduce bacteria into your uterus and cause infection. Change your pad every hour or two to start, every three or four hours in the coming days and then taper down to what is needed to make you comfortable. Be sure to wash your hands before and after changing your pad.
You may also have an episiotomy wound between your vagina and perineum. You need to keep this part of your body clean to prevent infection. Take a bath or shower at least once a day and change your maternity pad regularly. Some mums add salt to their bath water. The episiotomy will heal just as well with clean water.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms, as they are indications of an infection:
· the lochia has an unpleasant smell
· you have a fever or chills
· bleeding stays heavy and bright red after the first week
· your stomach feels tender down low on one or both sides
Occasionally, bleeding that's heavier than normal lochia may occur between twenty four hours and six weeks after birth. This is called secondary post-partum haemorrhage, caused by either an infection or a piece of placenta that has been left inside the uterus. Call an ambulance if:
· bleeding suddenly becomes heavy, soaking more than one pad in an hour
· bleeding is bright red four or more days and does not slow when you lie down and rest
· pass lots of large blood clots that are larger than a 50p piece
· you feel faint or dizzy
· if your heartbeat starts to race or becomes irregular
You will be fine once you have received the right care for a secondary post-partum haemorrhage. You may be treated with antibiotics or have a minor operation to remove the rest of the placenta.