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The discomfort that the women go through pregnancy and labour is only known to her only. And it does not stop there. The post labour bleeding is common, but many times it is accompanied with much more. Lochia, Pronunciation (lo'ke-a) is one thing that many women experience and yet they are unaware of its presence.

What is lochia?

Every woman bleeds after having a baby. Postnatal discharge, known as lochia, is how your body discharges the lining of the womb after birth. It may come out in gushes or flow more evenly like a normal period. As healing continues and the womb grows smaller, the flow of lochia will slow and turn from bright red to pink and, eventually, to yellow-white.

Many women get extremely frightened by the bleeding that occur post delivery. This may be because having just been through labour and delivery, so much blood loss feels like something is going terribly wrong. It is important to remember that this vaginal discharge is very, very normal and happens to every woman who has just had a baby.

Does lochia occur in vaginal delivery only?

This postpartum bleeding or Lochia occurs after every birth irrespective of whether it is a vaginal delivery or a C-section and in different women the heaviness and duration varies. For the first four days it starts of as a bright red color which is the heaviest loss of blood as well. And after about 10 days postpartum, you may be left with a much reduced flow of white discharge which could then peter off or go on like that for a few weeks. During this time, you may feel weaker because of all the blood loss and the exhaustion your body faces after labour and birth. You may also have the postnatal blues which are exaggerated by the fact that you are not feeling very strong physically.

How long will it last?

You may bleed for as little as two to three weeks or as long as six weeks after birth. The flow will taper off very gradually. Red lochia should not persist for more than two weeks, although if you try to do too much too soon it may start flowing again. If you see bright red blood, it's a sign to slow down.

What kind of sanitary pads should be used?

For the first few days you may feel that you need to use very thick sanitary pads to manage the heavy flow which is okay, in fact you may want to wear these until the flow reduces quite a bit. Tampons are not recommended during this period as they just increase the risk of infection

Is it safe to have sex during this period?

Many of us wonder if sexual intercourse is allowed during this time. This is something you can discuss individually with your doctor since each birth is unique and has had different effects on your body but neither you nor your partner will want to have sex during the time that the flow is heavy anyway.

When should I call the midwife or doctor?

Call your midwife or doctor if the bleeding:
  • soaks more than one towel an hour
  • remains heavy and bright red after the first week
  • returns to bright red four or more days after birth and does not improve with bedrest
  • has large blood clots (bigger than a 50paise coin)
  • has a foul smell and you come down with a fever and/or chills.
In rare cases, some women will have what is known as secondary postpartum haemorrhage. If you have abnormally heavy bleeding where you are actively trickling blood from the vagina, with or without clots, (saturating a sanitary pad within an hour), call your doctor or midwife immediately. This could be a sign that a piece of the placenta was left inside the uterus or that the uterus isn't shrinking properly. If you're bleeding briskly and feeling faint, call an ambulance.
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