Giving birth is messy business – even when you have a C-section. Most women assume that because they have a Cesarean birth, they’ll lose less blood. But the opposite is true: women typically lose twice as much blood with a C-section birth.
What about after the baby is born? Is it normal to continue bleeding?
Table of Contents
- Is It Normal to Bleed After a C-Section? What Causes the Bleeding?
- How Long Does Bleeding Last After a C-Section?
- Signs of Internal Bleeding After a C-Section
- How Much Bleeding Is Too Much?
- How to Manage Bleeding After a C-Section
Is It Normal to Bleed After a C-Section? What Causes the Bleeding?
Yes, some bleeding is completely normal after a C-section, and a vaginal birth.
For the first few days after the procedure, you’ll experience heavy bleeding (heavier than your period) with bright red blood. You may also notice some clots in the blood. That’s completely normal, too.
This blood is called lochia, and is a type of vaginal discharge. It will start off heavy in the days just after birth, and taper off within a month of giving birth. When the blood tapers off, it should start to become watery and turn yellow or white.
It may be alarming to see that much blood after giving birth, but it’s important to remember that the amount of blood in your body rises by 50% during pregnancy, so your body is ready for this type of heavy blood loss.
If you’re starting up birth control again, you may notice some bleeding after the lochia tapers off (that’s when you’ll probably start taking your BC again).
Spotting is normal if you’re on a progestin-only BC, or if you get the shot (Depo-Provera). And this spotting may carry on for a month or longer, depending on how long it takes your body to adjust.
How Long Does Bleeding Last After a C-Section?
How long do you bleed after a C-section?
Most women will bleed for a few weeks after their C-section. And you might bleed a little while in the hospital directly after the procedure.
Having a C-section doesn’t necessarily affect the postpartum bleeding (or lochia). You won’t bleed more or less or for longer or shorter just because you had a Cesarean delivery.
Most women will bleed, on average, for four to six weeks after birth.
Signs of Internal Bleeding After a C-Section
Because you lose so much blood during a Cesarean section, internal bleeding can become very serious and life-threatening very quickly.
It’s important to be aware of and look for signs of internal bleeding after the procedure to help prevent serious complications.
The most common signs of internal bleeding include:
Rapid Heartbeat and Difficulty Breathing
A rapid heartbeat, or tachycardia, is one of the most common signs of internal bleeding, and occurs when the heart beats at more than 100 beats per minute.
Rapid or gasping breathing is also common.
A Boggy Uterus
All women are given oxytocin after a C-section, which is a type of medication that helps the uterus stay firm and contract. This helps prevent bleeding.
If the uterus has lost its form and becomes “boggy” or flabby, internal bleeding can happen quickly, and it can be deadly.
Doctors check the uterus manually through the abdomen every hour for the first few hours after delivery to help ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Weakness and Severe Anxiety
Many women who experience internal bleeding may complain of feeling weak. Some may even pass out when trying to stand up.
Anxiety is also common, or a feeling of impending doom.
Pale and Cold
Internal bleeding can also cause the skin to become pale, and the hands and feet to become cold and clammy. You might feel sweaty, too.
Heavy Vaginal Bleeding
Vaginal bleeding, called lochia, after a Cesarean section is normal. And bleeding can be heavy at times.
But if you’re bleeding so much that you’re soaking more than one pad an hour or if you’re passing large clots, it may be a sign of internal bleeding.
Reduced Urine Output
When there’s less blood going to the kidneys, urine output falls to less than 30 ml per hour.
The good news? In most cases, a catheter is inserted for a C-section delivery to make sure that the bladder stays empty. Your doctor or nurse will check to make sure you’re passing a healthy amount of urine every hour or two after the delivery.
If you’re experiencing any of the signs or symptoms above, get medical attention immediately. Most of the time, these signs appear while you’re still in the hospital, so your doctor can take care of it immediately.
How Much Bleeding Is Too Much?
If your bleeding starts tapering off but then suddenly becomes bright red again, it may be a sign that you’re overexerting yourself. But if you’re still spotting after resting for a few days, it may be a sign of something more serious.
Call your doctor if your bleeding starts getting heavier, or if:
- Your lochia has a strong, foul smell
- You have a fever or chills (sign of an infection)
- Your lochia is still bright red four to five days after birth
- You’re saturating a pad (or more than one pad) every hour
- You have large blood clots (larger than a golf ball)
Large blood clots are a sign of postpartum hemorrhage. If you’re passing these clots, you’ll want to seek immediate medical attention.
How to Manage Bleeding After a C-Section
As a woman, you’re already a pro at managing vaginal bleeding. But there are still some things you can do to help make the entire process a little more comfortable.
Use Pads – Not Tampons
During the lochia phase, use pads only – not tampons. It may not be comfortable and you may need pads as thick as you child’s diapers, but it’s the safest option.
Wearing a tampon is just inviting bacteria, and your body is in the middle of a tough recovery. Give your vagina and uterus a rest, and only use pads for the first six weeks after birth.
Be prepared to change your pads often, but if you’re bleeding through one or more per hour, it’s time to call the doctor.
Wear Old Clothes
For the next few weeks, wear only clothes that you don’t really care about (especially panties). Stains from spotting are almost inevitable after giving birth, so it’s not a good idea to wear your favorite clothes right after delivery.
Rest, Rest and Rest
You may want to get right back into your usual routine, but it’s best to rest and not overdo things right after delivery. Not only will you slow down the recovery process, but you may also cause the bleeding to start back up again (or to get heavier after it’s started tapering off).
Get Help Around the House
Caring for a newborn is exhausting enough as is. To give your body as much rest as possible, ask for help around the house, so the chores get done without you having to compromise your recovery.
Your partner, friends and family will all be happy to lend their helping hands to make sure you get the rest you need while recovering.
Bleeding after a C-section is normal, but it’s important to keep an eye on the heaviness of the flow and the duration of the bleeding to make sure nothing serious is going on. If your bleeding is extra-heavy, you’re passing large clots or something just doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or head to the emergency room.