Coping with postnatal blood loss

Postnatal discomforts – Part 1

Okay – so it’s not the most glamorous topic for a blog – but – We know how much time we spend talking about preparing for birth – but relatively little time is given to preparing mums for the “fallout” (quite literally!) effects of birthing on their bodies in the early days.

As a postnatal doula couples often tell me that they had NO idea (sometimes thankfully!) about all those common postnatal body problems they would face…

So here is a quick guide to coping with postnatal blood loss: (other common discomforts to be covered in Part 2!)

Postnatal Bleeding:  Okay, so you WILL bleed after birth – quite a lot!! In fact, let’s be honest – REALLY quite a lot!! Even after a caesarean section!  After birth / delivery, your uterus needs to shed the lining that it created to welcome your baby 9 months ago – and now it needs to come out.  It will change over time from bright red to pink to brown.  Who knew you could have a rainbow of period colours?  If your loss smells unpleasant or suddenly increases you should contact your midwife straight away.

“How long / much will I bleed after birth?” – Most women bleed heavily in the first few days, then something similar to a heavy period in the next week. On average the ‘lochia’ (medical term for postnatal blood loss) gradually eases off over the next 3 -4 weeks.

Knickers:  I have to smile when a mums get a thong or tiny pair of briefs out of her hospital bag following birth, totally unaware that she really needed to think ‘full on armour plating’ in terms of knickers!  Many mums buy disposable knickers for following birth and you have a choice of either paper knickers or elasticated.  In our experience the paper ones are pretty terrible! They can be very loose and baggy round the bum (I don’t mean comfy loose – I mean “looking like a nappy” loose) and tight round the thighs.  And of course they rustle!  The elasticated versions are much more comfy and snug (but not tight) fitting – but are usually ‘low slung’ so if you have a caesarean they might press on your scar.

So our tip of the day is… Go and buy yourself 3 or 4 packs of “Bridget Jones” pants from Tesco / Matalan   / George.  They will only cost you around £4 for four pairs which is actually cheaper than buying paper or elastic, they are more comfy and secure for holding maternity pads in place, and at that price you can afford to just roll them up and throw them away.

Maternity Pads: Are you asking yourself “Which maternity pads should I buy?” – well there is of course a whole range – but we would suggest you don’t turn up with a pack of “Always Ultra” super dooper with wings and five drops capacity!  You are going to need PROPER maternity pads.  If you haven’t yet seen one of these in the flesh (and trust me it has a LOT of flesh!) then just think ‘mini-mattress’ – or brick.  On this one occasion you truly don’t want ‘ultra slim’. Okay, so they are not glamorous or discreet – but they are absorbent and offer great padding.  Regardless of whether your birth is a normal vaginal birth, or required forceps or ventouse assistance, your vulva is likely to feel bruised, so you will be very grateful for the cushioning afforded by proper pads.  Not only is an Always ultra going to be very thin – but think about that plastic mesh weave outer layer – it is just perfect for ‘snagging’ on any stitches you might need, and that won’t be at all pleasant to experience.

If you are dreading the excessive bleeding then you might want to consider having your placenta encapsulated as it can reduce postnatal bleeding significantly!!  Most women report very reduced bleeding after just 5 days when they have consumed their placenta, so it may be worth a consideration!

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