After you give birth to a baby, you are open. Literally, open. Your uterus has a wound the size of your placenta which, if you didn’t see it, was the size of a dinner plate. As your uterus shrinks, so does that wound but some postpartum bleeding is to be expected in those early days and it may last weeks. Here are some ways to be prepared for it. It is more than a period but you can manage it in some of the same ways!
Know what’s normal
Knowing what is normal will help you keep calm and know when to call your care provider. In the first few hours after birth, it’s normal to soak a large pad or chucks pad every hour. If you birthed with a provider such as an OB or a midwife, they will take note of how much you are bleeding and should continue to give care until the bleeding is within a normal range. Even my homebirth midwife stayed for hours after birth until she could confidently say my bleeding was slow and normal. Once you return home, ask your partner or postpartum support to keep track of how often you are changing your pad.
Ideally, your bleeding will lessen each day and stop being bright red by the third day. Keep in mind that increased activity can increase bleeding. If you go for your first walk with Baby, expect your bleeding to pick up a bit. Once you come to rest, it should slow again. If it does not, you should contact your care provider or seek medical attention.
Know the color indicators
Your blood should change in color in the first few days. It should go from bright red to light pink and eventually to brown. Bright red indicated fresh blood while pink indicated it’s diluted, maybe mixed with cervical mucus. This would be a sign you’re healing and your wounds are closing. Brown blood is old blood that is just finding it’s way out. That means that you might have stopped actually bleeding and soon will stop having bloody discharge. Remember that an increase in activity could make the color revert to brighter or darker. If that happens, rest and seek medical attention if it continues.
Now that you know what your postpartum bleeding should look and act like, what do you do?
Have supplies on hand
Just like when you are on your period, you will need some supplies on hand to catch the blood. These things should be gathered before you give birth. If you give birth in a hospital, take all the extra pads, disposable underwear, and any other supplies from your room home when you leave. Usually, hospital policy states that open packs of disposable items can’t be used for other patients and they have most likely been added to your bill. That means you paid for them so you should take them home!
If you are birthing outside of the hospital, postpartum supplies can be found at a local drug store. Large chucks pads (kind of like a puppy pee pad) are great for immediately after birth or when you don’t put clothes on. They can protect your bed, couch, or wherever you choose to sit. Once you’re moving about, large period pads are a must! Don’t look for discreet and small. Get the biggest ones they have available, trust me. Disposable underwear, or adult diapers, (yes, the kind for incontinence) can be a convenient option too. Even if you got some supplies from the hospital, you should have four to six weeks of these supplies on hand. Bleeding might last that long.
There are reusable options for postpartum care too! I loved absorbent period panties during those early postpartum days. They were comfortable, soft, and I never had to rush to the store for more. There are many brands and styles out there now, but after trying a few, my personal favorite were The Period Company. Their absorbent area is a little thicker than other brands, but I found this to be more comfortable on my tender areas after birth. Once my bleeding had slowed and became lighter, I used reusable menstrual pads rather than disposable ones. I liked the idea of avoiding chemical products and saving money by washing and reusing.
Remember that when you are bleeding postpartum, you don’t want to use any internal products like tampons or menstrual cups. You should not be putting anything into your vagina for at least four weeks to ensure everything is healed and closed.
Eat warm foods
What you eat and how you care for your body is just as importable in early postpartum as having the supplies to handle your postpartum bleeding. You have to give your body the proper tools to heal from the inside out. That starts with food.
Eating warm, easily digestible, nourishing foods is the best way to promote healing. Because warmth aids in healing, our bodies needs to stay warm in order to heal. Eating cold food or drinking cold or frozen beverages can be counter intuitive as it brings the body temperature down. Your body will devote energy to regulating your temperature leaving less energy for healing.
Perfect foods for early postpartum can be things like oatmeal, grits, soups, and congee. Enjoy a lot of hot tea, coffee, and even whole-milk hot chocolate! Save those frozen desserts for later, at least after your bleeding has stopped.
Don’t over-do it
Many new moms are excited or even impatient to get back to being active after giving birth. Some doctors will encourage new moms to start taking walks in the first few weeks. While this light activity can be good for mom’s physical and mental health, it can also lead to a heavier flow from postpartum bleeding. Your body will send you signs when you are over doing it such as increased bleeding or a return to brighter or darker colored blood. Listen to it!
Don’t be alarmed if your bleeding had stopped and starts again after a walk or more activity than usual, but do take the time to rest if that happens. Caring for yourself in this time is just as important as caring for your new baby. Remember: You can’t take care of them if you don’t take care of yourself. Postpartum is not the time to bounce back, get your body back, or prove to yourself you’re strong. It’s the time to rest, relearn, and regulate your new normal!