Lochia is vaginal discharge during the postpartum period. It comes from the Greek word that means “relating to childbirth.” It consists of blood and sloughed-off tissue from the lining of the uterus.
For the first few days after birth lochia contains a fair amount of blood, so it will be bright red and look like a heavy menstrual period. It may come out intermittently in small gushes or flow more evenly. If you’ve been lying down for a while and blood has collected in your vagina, you may see some small clots when you get up.
If everything proceeds normally, you’ll have a bit less discharge each day, and by two to four days after you’ve given birth, the lochia will be more watery and pinkish in color. By about ten days after the birth, you should have only a small amount of white or yellow-white discharge, mostly composed of white blood cells and cells from the lining of the uterus.
The amount will taper off before it stops a process that generally takes another two to four weeks, though a small number of women continue to have slight lochia or intermittent spotting for a few more weeks. If you’ve started on the progestin-only birth control pill (the “minipill”) or gotten the birth control shot (Depo-Provera), you’re likely to have spotting for a month or more, and that’s perfectly normal.
If your locia turns bright red after it has been brown, you are probably exerting yourself too much. Lie down with your feet elevated for the remainder of the day. Staying off your feet, as much as possible for the first five days postpartum will help prevent excessive bleeding.
If your locia smells foul, or if bleeding becomes heavy, soaking two large pads with blood in less than 30 minutes within the first 24 hours following birth, call your health-care giver. Another cause for concern is persistently passing clots 20 millimeters in diameter or passing a clot larger than a golf ball. Your bleeding should not be excessive. If you suddenly gush blood, call your health-care provider immediately.