Postpartum Bleeding: What's Normal and What's Not

Postpartum Bleeding: What's Normal and What's Not

Mamahood is a barrage of new experiences, and somehow you’re just supposed to know which of them are normal and which aren’t.

Add to this the fact that every mama-and-baby combo is unique, and the quest to find answers can be plain exhausting.

So, when it comes to bleeding after birth, how do you know if the postpartum bleeding you’re experiencing is of the “normal” type?

These two terms are a good place to start: lochia and PPM.

In this article: 📝

  • What is Lochia?
  • What are the stages of Lochia?
  • What is PPH?

What is Lochia?

Lochia is the name for the vaginal bleeding that makes its appearance postpartum.

A mixture of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue, it shows up whether you have a vaginal birth or a cesarean—although cesareans often result in a lighter flow.

Now here’s the thing: it can get messy. It’s like your period but on steroids.

So, it’s a good idea to prepare by having extra-heavy menstrual pads on hand!

Luckily, the hospital will provide you with some after you have your baby.

Are you wondering, does lochia smell? It should smell about the same as menstrual blood.

Because there’s a lot of it, you might notice the smell a bit more.

If you smell a strong or foul odor or the smell changes, it’s best to call your doctor.

How long do you bleed for after having a baby?

How long does postpartum bleeding last? Usually about 4-6 weeks.

It typically starts heavier (like, even more so than a heavy period) and tapers off after a few weeks.

And it goes through specific stages.

What are the stages of Lochia?

The stages of postpartum bleeding are most easily divided by color. Your lochia rainbow looks a little something like this:

Stage 1: Dark red.

This phase is known as the lochia rubra and usually lasts up to about 4 days. Heavy. Crampy. You also may see some blood clots in this phase. Clots are okay, provided they’re no bigger than a lemon.

Stage 2: A pinkish shade.

For the next 10 days or so, you can enjoy a lighter shade and lighter flow. (Enjoy being a relative term, of course.) This stage is called the lochia serosa.

Stage 3: Yellowish-whitish with some dashes of blood.

This phase—called the lochia alba—is a tribute to those white blood cells of yours who have done the great work of renovating your uterus.

Their work is complete, and now they must depart.

This stage lasts 10-28 days.

Is it normal for Lochia to turn red again?

It can be! After you thought the bright and bloody phase was well behind you, your lochia can show you that it has other plans.

If your lochia turns bright red a few weeks after it has started to change color and strength, this may be due to the remnants of a scab from the placenta site making its way out.

If your bright red bleeding returns and you’re soaking through a pad an hour, or you have pain or a fever, it’s worth calling your doctor.

So is bright red blood 3 weeks postpartum normal? In many cases, yes, but if you’re worried, definitely check in with your healthcare provider.

What is PPH?

PPH stands for postpartum hemorrhage and is extremely heavy bleeding that happens after giving birth.

While quite rare, it is serious and requires medical attention.

It can cause you to lose a lot of blood, which will have a debilitating effect on your organs.

If PPH happens, it typically does so within about 24 hours of birth—but this is not always the case. In fact, it can happen up to 6 weeks after your baby is born.

Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • Large blood clots
  • Bright red bleeding that doesn’t go away about 4 days after birth
  • Really heavy, uncontrollable flow
  • Dizziness, blurry vision, and feeling faint
  • Nausea
  • Chills

If you experience any of these symptoms, get medical help right away.

We get it: when we’re talking about blood, everything starts to sound scary.

But the main takeaway here is that, most of the time, your postpartum bleeding is totally normal!

If you have any concerns at all, don’t be shy about calling your healthcare provider—that’s what they’re there for!

And if nobody has told you today: you’re doing one heck of a job.

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