This Is How Long You Can Expect to Bleed After Giving Birth, According to 2 Doctors
Considering the fact that there were over 3.5 million babies born in the US in 2021, you'd think that we'd be better about educating people about the postpartum period. But while we've made some strides, the truth is many people are still woefully undereducated about what's normal in the days and weeks after giving birth — including how long postpartum bleeding lasts.
Postpartum bleeding is also known as lochia, and although it's considered typical, it's not talked about enough. (Case in point: Chrissy Teigen was surprised to find she needed to wear a diaper to deal with postpartum bleeding even after having a C-section.) Bleeding after giving birth doesn't typically cause complications, nor is it a sign of something amiss. It's the body expelling the extra blood and tissue that it needed for the baby.
But even knowing it happens, you might be left with some additional questions. How long do you bleed after giving birth, for example? Are there postpartum bleeding stages? Is there anything you can do to stop postpartum bleeding faster? We asked experts everything there is to know about lochia.
What Is Lochia?
Lochia is also called postpartum bleeding, but it consists of more than blood. The vaginal discharge that happens after giving birth typically also includes mucus, uterine tissue, and essentially any other materials in your uterus from pregnancy. "New moms can expect the blood to be bright red and thick because of the tissue right after giving birth," says Iffath Hoskins, MD, clinical associate professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "But as time goes on, it should change to a brown or orange shade."
Is it Normal to Bleed After Birth?
Regardless of whether you had a vaginal delivery or C-section, postpartum bleeding is normal. Similar to your period, the bleeding is the shedding and restoration of your uterine lining. The heavier bleeding will typically last for about 10 to 14 days, according to Dr Hoskins. During this time, pads will be your friend — expect to go through several thick pads per day, and don't use tampons until your healthcare provider gives you the OK, as they can introduce bacteria that could lead to infection.
Lochia can get messy, so wearing some crummy clothes that you don't mind getting dirty is a good idea. The blood isn't cause for alarm, but if something feels "off," Dr. Hoskins urges you to contact a doctor. "No one ever died from being embarrassed about an unnecessary phone call, but sepsis is a known killer of mothers," she says. Symptoms such as a localized pain in the perineum, fever, pus, foul-smelling odor, excessive clotting (think golf-ball size), or soaking a pad every hour are all urgent signs to call your doctor.
What Are the Postpartum Bleeding Stages?
There are three stages of postpartum bleeding, according to Cleveland Clinic:
- Lochia rubra. The first stage typically lasts up to four days post-birth. The flow may feel like a heavy period with mild cramping. Expect to see dark- or bright-red blood and small clots.
- Lochia serosa. The second stage is a more moderate flow from days four to 12. The discharge is a pinkish-brown color and more watery in texture. There's less clotting and bloodiness in general.
- Lochia alba. The final stage is signaled by light flow or spotting. At this point there shouldn't be any clots and little to no blood. Instead you can expect yellowish-white discharge until roughly the six-week mark.
How Long Do You Bleed After Giving Birth?
Altogether, the three stages of lochia can last up to six weeks. That said, it's normal to see spotting for up to eight weeks post-childbirth, adds Heather Rupe, MD, DO, ob-gyn at The Womens Group of Franklin.
How to Stop Postpartum Bleeding Faster
Research shows breastfeeding accelerates healing because your body produces the hormone oxytocin while you nurse which stimulates uterine contractions and reduces bleeding. But there's nothing you need to do to "treat" lochia. Instead, during the first six weeks post-childbirth, try to get as much rest as possible (though it's fine to take some light walks, if you'd like), and let your body recover.
— Additional reporting by Melanie Whyte