What is Lochia?Postpartum
There are a few things that no one talks to you about your postpartum recovery. You expect discharge, but no one tells you that your blood flow could look like your period on steroids the first few days! That’s why you’ll be using those gigantic, ‘diaper-like’ pads. And they are huge for a reason! Keep in mind you’ll have an open wound inside your uterus left from where the placenta detaches and a thick uterine lining that needs to shed. This blood loss after birth is called lochia (pronounced loh-kee-uh).
This discharge goes through three distinct stages. The first stage is called Lochia Rubra which can last up to four days postpartum and consists of the immediate discharge of blood, mucus, and tissue. The second stage is called Lochia Serosa, a pinkish-brown, watery discharge that lasts up to 10 days after delivery. The last stage of the process is called Lochia Alba, a yellowish white vaginal discharge that can last as long as four to six weeks after the birth of your baby. If you’ve had a cesarean delivery, you will still have lochia!
If lochia is green in color, has a ‘fishy’ smell, or you have a fever, it could mean an infection is brewing and you need to be treated by your healthcare provider. An increase in discharge sometimes happens after sitting a long time for one of those marathon breastfeeding sessions, or with increased activity such as exercise. This is usually not indicative of a problem, but it should remind you not to physically overdo it. However, the return of bright red bleeding, filling a sanitary pad in an hour or less, or passing a golf ball sized clot (or more) requires you to seek immediate medical attention. The nurses usually discuss this information with you on the day you get released from hospital. If you’ve had a homebirth, your midwife will also provide you with instructions.
Sexual intercourse and the use of tampons are highly discouraged until you have ceased with all vaginal discharge because both can introduce infection into the uterus. Stick with pads and panty liners, or opt for eco-friendly mama cloth options.
Just remember, lochia doesn’t last forever. This too shall pass.
We encourage you to learn more about our "What in the World" series. Please see our A to Z index for a whole host of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting information and terminology.
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.