As you know from my Happily After Birth post, there are some not-so-sexy parts about birth that Hollywood movies don’t really talk about.
Postpartum bleeding is definitely one of them but, you know what? We need to know about this shit or you’re going to freak out after you have a baby. I asked two of my favorite nurses, Cindy and Jana, to give us the low down, so finish what you’re eating, roll up your sleeves and let’s get this party started!
If you are expecting a new baby in the near future, you probably won’t want to read this post while enjoying your morning coffee. But guess what? You WILL want this information after baby arrives!
After nine blessed months of not worrying about “Aunt Flo’s” arrival, suddenly questions about postpartum bleeding and blood clots are likely to top your list.
To save frantic Googling when the time arrives, we have prepared answers to the most common questions you are likely to have.
Why do women bleed after having a baby?
After baby is born, the placenta (the tissue that helped to provide oxygen and nutrition to your growing baby) separates from the wall of your uterus. The site where it was attached is now open and will begin to bleed. Everyone has vaginal bleeding after their baby’s birth, even after a C-section.
Your uterus squeezes (contracts) to help stop the bleeding. If your uterus does not “kick into gear” and begin to contract, your healthcare provider may massage your uterus or give you a medication to help this along. Breastfeeding is a great way to help this process along as it causes more oxytocin to be released (the hormone responsible for these contractions).
Some women may also bleed a little from a tear in their vagina or their episiotomy. This bleeding lasts only a short time, usually only until it is sutured.
How much blood flow is normal?
For the first few days after baby’s birth, your blood flow will be bright red and about as heavy as your menstrual period.
By the time baby is three or four days old, your blood flow should start to become more watery and pinkish in color.
By 8-10 days after delivery, your blood flow should be mostly thick and yellowish in color.
If you find your bleeding becoming bright red and heavy again, it could be your body’s way of telling you that you are overdoing it. Try resting to see if it subsides again. Bleeding that stays bright red past the first week is unusual; see your healthcare provider. You may have some flow and spotting until 6 weeks after baby’s birth, but for many women it resolves sooner.
Can I use tampons?
We don’t recommend using tampons after a cesarean or vaginal birth. Tampons can increase your risk of developing an infection. Hold off on using tampons until at least 6 weeks after birth and give your body a chance to heal.
Are blood clots normal?
It is normal to pass occasional blood clots, the size of a quarter or smaller. Blood can pool inside the vagina when you are lying or sitting. Standing up will cause these clots to pass. Blood clots appear dark in color and are often jelly-like in appearance.
Sometimes a piece of the placenta can be left behind in your uterus. If you pass this tissue, it will appear whitish and stringy. Monitor your symptoms a little more closely with this type of clot, as you can be more at risk to develop heavy bleeding and infection.
Symptoms of an infection in your uterus include pain, fever and/ or a foul odor to your blood flow. (Note: If you are unsure if your flow has a foul odor, chances are it doesn’t; it is usually quite obvious!)
Notify your healthcare provider if any signs of infection appear.
If you soak an entire maxi-pad, from front to back, in less than an hour, you need to seek medical attention immediately (go to the closest emergency room).
For further reading, here are the answers to the top 10 questions after a vaginal delivery and after a C-section. Please don’t rush your recovery; your body needs time to heal. Try to relax as you recover, listen to your body and enjoy snuggling that new baby!
Related: After Birth “Exit” Care
If you want to learn more from Cindy and Jana, they have a free Getting Ready to Breastfeed course and a Simply Breastfeeding course that’s amazing. Those gals really know their stuff so it’s worth checking out.