Bleeding after delivery is expected. Because every person’s body is different, the amount of bleeding isn’t the same for everyone. At first, you may pass clots of tissue or have gushes of blood. This is normal during the first week. The bleeding should become lighter after 2 to 3 weeks. The colour should change from bright red to pink to brown as the uterus heals and returns to its pre-pregnant size.
Call your doctor if you still have bleeding after 2 weeks.
When to get help at the Emergency Department
Sometimes very heavy bleeding or signs of infection may occur. This doesn’t happen often but if you have these symptoms you may need to go the emergency department.
You can call Health Link Alberta at 811 to talk to a nurse about how you’re feeling and get health advice at any time. You may also call your family doctor, obstetrician, or visit an emergency department if you have:
- bleeding that is much heavier than a regular menstrual period (soaking through a thick maxi pad each hour for more than 2 hours in a row)
- heavy bleeding which continues for more than 1 to 2 weeks
- passed blood clots bigger than a large coin (like a $1 coin)
- severe abdominal pain
- a continued fever over 38°C (100.5°F) for more than 4 hours after taking acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- discharge from the vagina that does not look normal or has bad odour or smell
After your delivery, you may feel some mild cramping. This may last for a few days. You may also feel discomfort if you are passing clots. You may take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help with the discomfort. A heating pad or hot pack on the abdomen may help to relieve cramps. Cramps may last up to 10 days following the delivery while the uterus returns to its normal size.
Breast tenderness is normal. It is due to the hormone changes in your body. It can be very upsetting for you to have breast tenderness at this time but it should go away within a few days.
Usually milk comes in or starts 2 to 5 days after delivery. Sometimes it takes a bit longer because of stress. If you notice a liquid discharge from your breasts, use an absorbent material inside a snug fitting bra. Any breast discharge should stop within a few days but milk production is different for everyone. It can continue for a few days or a few weeks.
You have 2 options when your milk comes in. You can choose to suppress it or you may choose to donate it. Many mothers have shared that donating their milk to help another sick baby has brought them some comfort. There is no right or wrong to what you choose to do.
If you want to suppress breast milk, don’t pump or regularly express milk from breasts. The pressure and lumpy feel of milk and tissue swelling may be uncomfortable for 3 to 4 days. Sometimes this can last as long as 10 days. Gently hand express just enough milk to ease the discomfort. Milk may continue to be produced for a time after this but shouldn’t be painful. It will slowly be reabsorbed. You may notice occasional drops of milk for several months.
How to feel more comfortable:
- Wear a comfortable bra that offers good breast support.
- Use cold compresses on your breasts for comfort. Apply a cloth-covered ice pack or bag of frozen peas to the breasts for 10 to 20 minutes several times during the day.
- Take pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).
- Use breast pads to soak up any leaking milk.
- When taking a shower, let the breasts leak to relieve the pressure.
- Avoid heat (like heating pads) on the breasts as this could increase discomfort.
If you choose to donate your milk, you can contact the
Northern Star Mother’s Milk Bank. See the resources section.
Fatigue and Emotions
You may experience feelings of sadness because of a sudden change in body hormones after delivering your baby and the emotional work of grief. After labour and delivery, it is normal to experience some feelings of tiredness as your body recovers. If the fatigue and feelings of sadness continue, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about how you’re feeling.