Post Partum Bleeding

Changing Hormones

From the moment of conception until long after the birth of your baby, your body goes through myriad changes. The change in hormone levels from low to super-charged instigates changes in your body and because the reproductive hormones remain at an elevated level until after you give birth, the menstrual cycle stops for the duration of the pregnancy. Cessation of menstruation, sore breasts and tiredness are all linked to hormone changes during pregnancy. In a normal and healthy pregnancy you won’t have any more bleeding until the time you actually birth your baby. It is everyone’s hope that their pregnancy will be trouble free.

Postpartum Bleeding Is Normal

Once you give birth, whether by cesarean section or vaginally, you will bleed from your vagina. Hormone levels drop and the body begins immediately to revert back to its former self. However, it can take several weeks for menstruation to resume. The bleeding that occurs right after the baby is born is the result of the uterus healing and shrinking back to almost pre-pregnancy size in a process called involution. The body slowly expels the remnants of the placenta, amniotic fluid, blood and mucus through the vagina.

Postpartum bleeding, which is a natural process, is called lochia and usually takes between two and four weeks to clear. However, many women bleed for up to six week or more. It begins with a heavy flow, often requiring heavy duty protection, and then gradually tapers off over the days and weeks. It does take time for menses to begin again and sometimes menstrual cycles may not be the same in terms of intervals or longevity as they were before you became pregnant. There may also be some changes in the menstrual flow – lighter or heavier – and sometimes delayed postpartum bleeding occurs, which is not menses and can be disconcerting.

Sometimes postpartum bleeding lasts only for a few days and then disappears, only to come back with a fury several weeks later. This could indicate that part of the placenta or uterine lining may not have passed out of your body after the birth. It could also point to the presence of a uterine infection. If you are passing clots or if the bleeding is soaking one sanitary pad per hour you could be hemorrhaging and should receive immediate medical attention.

Abnormal Periods

The fact is that abnormal periods are the norm rather than the exception after giving birth, especially for the first few months. If you choose to breastfeed your baby, your period may not begin again until a month after you stop breastfeeding. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get pregnant again while you are breastfeeding or immediately after you stop. Many women who thought breastfeeding was a good means of birth control were the recipients of an unplanned surprise. If you are not breastfeeding and your menstrual cycle doesn’t resume in a more normal fashion within several months of giving birth, it is a good idea to visit the doctor to ensure nothing is amiss.

Menstrual bleeding should resume within a month postpartum, if you’re not breastfeeding. The bleeding after pregnancy during your menses will likely be irregular with varying degrees of intensity of flow. The irregularity may last for several months. If you have endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, the irregularity may continue as it did before you became pregnant. However, some women experience a change in their condition and find that their pregnancy has actually acted to regulate their menstrual cycles causing them to become more normal after the birth of their babies.

It is best not to use tampons for bleeding after pregnancy because they exacerbate the risk of infection. If you had a vaginal birth, the tampons may cause irritation in the vagina. Maternity pads or something of that natural are the safest choice for postpartum bleeding. Initially, the bleeding will be heavy and the color of the flow will go from bright red to brown to a yellow or whitish color as the uterus heals. If you do something strenuous you could trigger an increase in the blood flow – this is a normal reaction and could indicate that you should take it easy for just a little while longer.

Further Info

You can read more about lochia and postpartum hemorrhaging in this section.

Learn more about Postpartum Bleeding

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