Bleeding after birth

Advice on what’ll happen down there now you’re a mum

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How long will I bleed for?

You can bleed for up to six weeks after you’ve delivered the placenta. This is known as a lochia bleed. It happens as the uterus shrinks back to its normal size, causing it to shed the lining of the womb including some blood from the area of the placenta.

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“In the beginning it’ll look like a period,” says Dr Alan Brown, medical advisor and consultant gynaecologist for Lil-lets. “You’ll know when it’s coming to an end as it’ll become pale, compared to the end of a usual period, which would be darker.” Stock up on maternity pads before giving birth.

When will my periods come back?

Once the lochia bleed is gone, the next bleed you have will be your first period. For some women, periods will return pretty soon after the lochia bleed ends. Sometimes, though, it can take several months, or even up to a year. It can sometimes be influenced by how you’re feeding your baby, says our midwife Anne Richley.

“If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, your period is unlikely to start again for as long as you breastfeed because the hormones you release during feeding delay ovulation, but don’t rely on this as contraception!” she says.

If you’re not breastfeeding, you could ovulate two weeks after the birth, which means you’ll have a bleed two weeks after that. So you could have a first period four weeks after giving birth.

Will my periods be the same?

A lot’s happened since that last period before you got pregnant. Hormone levels can mean you have a heavier flow than before the baby was born. “It’s very personal, and you mustn’t be alarmed if your first period isn’t the same as what you’re used to,” says Anne.

Can I use tampons?

You can use tampons again once your bleeding has stopped.

Do I need bigger tampons?

It’s a myth that your vagina will be bigger and need a larger tampon just because you’ve given birth. “Your vagina will have stretched when the baby was coming out, but the vagina walls are made of muscle so they will go back,” says Anne Richley.

“However, to help your muscles return to how they were before you gave birth and
to keep them strong in general, it’s really important to keep doing your pelvic floor exercises,” she adds.

Bleeding: when you need to see your GP

  • If the blood loss gets heavy
  • If your lochia has large clots (egg-size or larger) or a bad smell
  • If your bleeding is still heavy and bright red a week after giving birth
  • When you have spotting between periods or after sex. “There could be an underlying problem – anything from an infection to changes with the cervix,” says Anne Richley.
  • If you’re not breastfeeding and your periods don’t start again after a year. “It could be that your hormones haven’t settled into a regular pattern,” says Dr Alan Brown. “But it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re worried.”

Mum’s story

“I didn’t have a period after my 8 month old was born. I went to see my doctor to make sure everything was OK and found out I was pregnant again. So I won’t be having another period for a while yet!”

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Cat Lane, 26, from Northampton, mum to Bethanie, 8 months, and 33 weeks pregnant

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