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Barts Health
Barts Health - NHS Trust has very kindly allowed Essential Parent to use its wonderful "Going home - our guide to postnatal care" leaflet to provide the information for many of our articles, including this one.
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Postnatal care 1 - Looking after Mum

Blood loss (lochia)

Every new mum bleeds after having her baby. This blood is known as ‘lochia’. Whether the birth was vaginal or by caesarean section, you will pass lochia.
In Short
It’s how your body gets rid of the lining of your uterus (womb) after birth. The blood may come out in gushes, or flow more evenly, similar to a heavy period.

The bleeding will change colour and become lighter as your uterus heals and returns to its pre-pregnancy size. At first, the flow of lochia will be heavy and bright red, and may have clots in it. Gradually, it will change to pink then brown, and eventually to yellow-white.

You may bleed for as little as two to three weeks, or for as long as six weeks after having your baby. The flow will gradually become less. Red lochia usually tapers off within the first couple of weeks, though if you try to do too much too soon, it may start flowing again. If you see bright red blood, it’s a sign that you need to slow down (NHS Choices 2011).

Do I need to do anything about the bleeding?

Not really, just stock up on maternity pads. Two or three packs of 12 should do. Do not use tampons for the first six weeks or so after you have your baby, as this can introduce bacteria into your still-healing uterus, causing an infection. You may need to change your pad every hour or two to start with, then every three or four hours in the coming days and weeks. Always wash your hands before and after changing your pad.

You may also have a wound between your vagina and back passage (perineum). You’ll need to keep this part of your body clean to prevent infection there as well. Take a bath or shower at least once a day, and change your maternity pad regularly.

When should I call my midwife or doctor?

Call your midwife or doctor if you develop the following symptoms, as you may have an infection:

  • The lochia has an unpleasant smell.
  • You develop a fever and / or chills.
  • The bleeding stays heavy, and is bright red, after the first week.
  • Your tummy feels tender low down on one or both sides.

Sometimes, bleeding that’s much heavier than normal lochia happens. Please seek urgent attention if the bleeding is soaking more than one pad in an hour or you are passing large clots (chunks of blood).

When will my periods start again?

If you bottle feed your baby or combine bottle with breastfeeding, your first period could start as soon as five to six weeks after you give birth. If you fully breastfeed, it is possible that your periods may not start again until you stop breastfeeding.

This article is one of many postnatal articles which Barts Health NHS Trust generously allowed Essential Parent to use. These articles come from the excellent Barts “Guide to Postnatal Care at Home”.

Share the knowledge
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.