Lochia alba, serosa & rubra - Post Childbirth Discharge

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Definition: Lochia is the medical term for the vaginal bleeding and discharge that occurs after childbirth.

Lochia contains blood and mucus. It also typically contains tissue from the lining of the uterus. Right after your baby is born your placenta separates and delivers. Over the next several weeks your uterus contracts down to its pre-pregnancy or normal size. During this time while the lining of your uterus returns to normal blood, tissue, and mucous pass through your cervix and create a typical vaginal discharge or lochia.

You will have lochia even if you deliver your baby by a cesarean section.

There are three stages of lochia:

  • Lochia rubra -- the first three to five days of postpartum vaginal discharge. Lochia rubra appears very bright red and contains a large number of red blood cells.
  • Lochia serosa -- occurs until about the tenth day after childbirth. Lochia serosa is thinner than lochia rubra and is brownish or pink.
  • Lochia alba -- occurs next, lasting up to six weeks after childbirth. Lochia alba is white or yellowish-white.

The first stage of lochia or lochia rubra is typically the heaviest. You may pass some blood clots, especially during the first few days after delivery. If you continue to have heavy vaginal bleeding for more than a week after you deliver you should talk to your healthcare provider. 

It is important not to use tampons or a menstrual cup to manage lochia. It is only appropriate to use pads.You can use either disposable or reusable pads.

Make sure you have a good supply at home.

All three stages of lochia have an odor similar to that of normal menstrual flow. If you experience an offensive or abnormal odor during lochia, contact your physician for evaluation.

Lochia is not the same as your period. It may take several weeks or even months for your normal menstruation to return after you have a baby.

It will take longer for your period to return if you are breastfeeding.

You will ovulate before you get your first period after you have a baby. This is important because that means that you can get pregnant again before you see your first period. 

Usually, you will be instructed not to have sex until you have your routine post partum visit 6 weeks after you have your baby. Your healthcare provider might suggest that you start birth control before that visit.

As always, it is important to discuss any questions you have about your post partum bleeding or discharge with your healthcare provider.

Also Known As: postpartum bleeding, postpartum vaginal discharge, bleeding after childbirth

Examples: All women experience lochia after childbirth.

Updated by Andrea Chisholm MD

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