You had a baby! Great job!
That’s such a huge ordeal, and you made it through to the other side. However, you may have some questions about the healing, and leaking, and physical sensations that you may be feeling. Specifically, “what is lochia?”
We can help with that.
Postpartum bleeding, or lochia, can be something that a lot of folks are a bit unsure about. After delivery, your nurse, OBGYN, or Midwife may have had some discussion with you about general care “down there”, but we wanted to take it a step further and really get personal about what to expect physically the first 6-8 weeks after birth.
The inner wound, a cause of postpartum bleeding.
First things first, you have a gaping wound inside your uterus where your placenta was attached. As your uterus continues to contract (afterpains while breastfeeding can be rough!!!!) post-baby, it’s working to help your baby maker shrink back down to pre-pregnancy size. This cool trick also insures that the wound where your placenta was is closing up and “scabbing” over.
Imagine it like a giant skinned knee or elbow. Every time you move too quickly, bending that joint, the healing wound with the fresh scab sort of opens up again. Thinking about it in those terms may help you understand why it is so important to rest for at least the first week.
A good rule of thumb is this:
1 week in bed- only getting up for bathroom breaks.
1 week around your bed- you can be more mobile.
1 week around your house- you can venture into other parts of the house to get some fresh air or sunlight, but go right back to your room if you need a rest.
Resting allows you to get back to your hustle sooner!
Now that we have that out of the way, know that the longer you rest, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to your active life once you are cleared at your 6-week appointment (Check out what we have to say about that over in our blog post about your 6-week checkup!) This is what we mean by keeping it low-key with lochia. Read on to learn what to expect with each stage of healing
Is my period, back already?
Lochia is the lovely discharge that hangs around longer than anyone expects it to after you’ve done that hard work of birthing your baby. Essentially it’s all the leftover stuff your body needs to get rid of after such a long 9 months of growing a squishy new person. Embrace it. It’s a sign that your body can do amazing things!!
While there is “bleeding” happening, most people don’t experience a return of their menstrual cycle until after their baby is out of the newborn stage. However, if you are sexually active, it’s important to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancies because conception can happen without the return of a menstrual cycle. If you are ovulating, you can become pregnant.
Also, please note, that the timeframes listed below are a general range and vary from person to person. This is what the typical stages of healing post-delivery would look like, regardless of how your child was born. It’s the same for both vaginal deliveries and surgical cesarean births.
The first 3-10 days this discharge has a specific name, “lochia rubra”. You can expect that it will be heavy to moderate, bright red- like a menstrual period- and its normal to pass some small clots. This discharge is largely made up of blood, fetal membranes, uterine lining, meconium and cervical discharge.
*Any heavy bleeding that saturates a menstrual pad from front to back in less than an hour, and/or clots that are larger than a fist in size require immediate medical attention.*
Days 10-14 this discharge shifts to the lighter flow “lochia serosa”, pink or pinkish-brown in color. There may still be clots passed, but this is much less likely. If there is a sudden increase in flow or the color changes back to bright red- consider it as a warning sign to slow down, rest more, and contact your care provider.
Finally, “lochia alba” is the last stage of your bleeding that occurs around days 14-28. The color is light yellow or cream-colored, very light in amount, and a great sign that your body is nearly done healing physically.
Go on with your bad self Momma!
So, in short, pay attention to the subtleties your body is sharing with you. It will let you know when it’s ready to continue back to life as usual. Treat yourself with the care and respect it deserves. Your life was forever changed with that hardcore badass thing that you did in giving birth to your baby. Be gentle with yourself. Be forgiving of the fact that this stage of life requires slowing down, and more introspection. Use it to nurture your baby and yourself. If you need assistance, postpartum doula support is a great way to let go, and let someone else tend to the things that need to be done while you care for you.