How Much Will I Bleed After Birth and Postpartum?

Bleeding after giving birth is normal; know how much is too much.

Caucasian mother holding baby
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After you give birth, either via cesarean birth or a vaginal birth, you will bleed from your vagina. The cause of this bleeding is the healing of the uterus, specifically where the placenta was attached to the uterine wall. As the uterus slowly shrinks back down to nearly its pre-pregnancy size in a process called involution, the body expels blood from the wound inside. Most of the time, bleeding is perfectly normal.

Every now and then, however, postpartum mothers have serious problems with symptoms that include excessive bleeding.

Normal Postpartum Bleeding

The first few days after you give birth you can expect to see more blood than you would normally see in a heavy period. This can also include blood clots. This discharge is called lochia, and it includes particles from the placenta, as well as white blood cells. You will likely have less discharge after a caesarean section, but there will still be bleeding.

The amount of bleeding should diminish each day, but you may nevertheless find the quantity of blood surprising. The first time you stand up after giving birth, you may actually have blood run down your legs. This is because when you sit or lie down, the blood pools in the vagina.

Over the course of several weeks, your bleeding will eventually taper to a normal period and then to spotting. The color of the flow will go from bright red to brown to a yellow or whitish color as your uterus heals.

It is normal to see an increase in amount or a darkening of the color of the blood if you do something more strenuous or move around more. This may be an indication that you need to take it easy.

You should not use tampons for bleeding after giving birth as this might cause an infection. It can also irritate the vagina if you had a vaginal birth.

It is recommended that you use maternity pads or something similar. Some women choose to use bladder control pads or adult diapers for the first few days because of the heavy flow.

Problems Related to Postpartum Bleeding

While bleeding is normal -- and even heavy bleeding is not unusual -- there can be postpartum problems that include excessive bleeding. 

If you experience bleeding that soaks a pad every hour for two hours, you should call your doctor or midwife as it may be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage. It may also be the case that part of the placenta has remained inside your uterus, which can cause problems.

In addition to excessive bleeding, other symptoms to look out for include: 

  • Increased rather than decreased bleeding
  • fever
  • excessive fatigue
  • foul-smelling discharge
  • a large number of blood clots or very large blood clots, especially after the first few days

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's a good idea to call your practitioner. While the likelihood is that you are experiencing normal postpartum bleeding, postpartum hemorrhage or related issues can be dangerous and should be treated immediately.

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