The birth of a baby can be a thrilling and happy event for new moms. But life after childbirth involves navigating the unknowns as well as the joys, especially for first-time moms. The normal postpartum bleeding, a discharge called lochia, may be one of those experiences you didn’t anticipate. Get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about lochia here.

What Is Postpartum Bleeding?

Postpartum bleeding usually refers to the vaginal discharge that appears after giving birth whether you give birth vaginally or via a cesarean section. The discharge, known as lochia, consists of blood and placental tissue. Basically, your uterus is shedding the mucosal membrane that lined it during your pregnancy.

Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect your bleeding may be something other than lochia.

Is Postpartum Bleeding Normal?

Postpartum bleeding is normal during the postpartum period. It's also normal to see some small blood clots that are about the size of a plum during this time.

However, if you have heavy bleeding—that is, you soak through two sanitary pads in under an hour—and particularly if you also have pelvic pain, a fever, or tenderness, then contact your healthcare provider, as the bleeding you are experiencing may be caused by something other than the normal postpartum shedding of the uterine lining.

How Different Is Postpartum Bleeding After a Cesarean Delivery?

Postpartum vaginal bleeding after a cesarean delivery is generally not different, except that the bleeding may be lighter.

What Should You Do If You Are Bleeding?

When experiencing postpartum bleeding, you should wear a sanitary pad and avoid tampons. Healthcare providers recommend that nothing be inserted into your vagina for at least six weeks after you've given birth.

How Long Does Postpartum Bleeding (Lochia) Last?

Postpartum bleeding is different for every woman. For some moms it can last for a couple of weeks, and for others up to a month or longer. Generally, postpartum bleeding stops after about four to six weeks.

Can Lochia Stop After a Week?

Not necessarily. Postpartum bleeding (lochia) is different for everyone: For some women lochia stops after a couple of weeks after the birth of their babies, and for other women, the bleeding may last longer than a month.

Can Postpartum Bleeding Stop and Start Again?

Although there may be times when you notice more or less discharge, lochia itself doesn't usually stop altogether only to start up again. Sometimes, the bright red discharge that you had in the first few days after you gave birth may also return.

The flow of vaginal discharge may increase:

Should You Still Be Bleeding Two, Three, or Four Weeks Postpartum?

Yes. It's common for postpartum bleeding (lochia) to last for at least a couple of weeks if not longer than a month. It's different for every woman. Postpartum bleeding typically stops after four to six weeks.

What Should Postpartum Bleeding Look Like?

It can depend on how much time has passed since you gave birth. Here’s how the lochia you see on your sanitary pad may change over time:

  • Postpartum bleeding (lochia) usually starts out as heavier bleeding and the discharge is darker in color

  • In the first few days after you've given birth, lochia can be bright red in color with a heavy volume

  • After about a week or so the discharge may be pinkish or brownish in color and the volume may be less

  • About two weeks later the discharge may become light brown or yellow in color and the amount will be much lighter. It will eventually go away altogether.

Is Postpartum Bleeding (Lochia) Like a Period?

Lochia is unlike a period in that it is characterized by heavier bleeding, and it very often includes blood clots. It's normal for the clots to be as big as a plum. It also lasts much longer than a normal period.

Lochia is similar to a period in that the discharge may have a stale, musty smell, just as a menstrual period sometimes has.

The Big Picture

Postpartum bleeding may be a bit of a hassle to deal with, but it's a normal part of the postpartum period that will soon subside. Always have some pads on hand, and perhaps use a more absorbent pad at night or when you have a heavier flow.

Your body is going through lots of changes as it heals after pregnancy and childbirth. Together with caring for your newborn, you have a lot on your plate during these early weeks and months. If you’re ever unsure about what’s normal and what’s not, or would like professional advice on your personal situation, seek help from your healthcare provider right away. Asking for extra help and support from your partner or loved ones can also make the highs and lows of this period easier to handle.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.