I have heavy postnatal vaginal discharge. What can I do?
Every new mother will experience vaginal bleeding after giving birth. This is regardless of whether the birth was natural or caesarean. The blood that is passed is called lochia, and this is the body’s way of getting rid of the unwanted uterine lining after birth.
Signs of postnatal discharge
Shortly after giving birth, the blood flow will be heavy. You may find occasions where you feel blood gushing out when you stand up or are very active. This is because the blood may pool in your vagina while you are seated. Sometimes there may be small blood clots too. The lochia starts off bright red, and as the flow lessens, the colour will lighten. Most women stop bleeding in 2 to 4 weeks, though for some women it can last for as long as 6 weeks. In some cases, bleeding may stop and start again.
Excessive postnatal bleeding should be addressed immediately as the mother may have a secondary postpartum haemorrhage. This refers to the loss of more than 500ml of blood between 24 hours up to 12 weeks after delivery. Seek medical help if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Bleeding that soaks a sanitary pad within the hour
- Passing of blood clots larger than the size of golf balls
- Bleeding that is bright red after 4 days or more postpartum
Causes and risks of postnatal discharge
Generally, postnatal discharge is a normal process and it not a sign of a medical issue. Secondary postpartum haemorrhage, however, occurs due to a variety of reasons, which include the uterus failing to contract normally. This is a very serious condition and if left untreated, can be fatal.
Dealing with heavy postnatal discharge
In the first few days after giving birth, try to rest as much as possible and minimise standing or walking too much. Be ready with maternity pads to soak up the discharge. You may also wish to wear disposable underwear during this time. If you are accustomed to using tampons during your regular period, avoid doing so at this time. Tampons can cause an infection as it has the potential to introduce bacteria into the vagina and uterus.