Vaginal Bleeding After C-Section: How Long Does It Last?

Vaginal bleeding happens after every childbirth—even for those who delivered by Cesarean section. But how long you bleed after a C-section varies. Read on to learn more.

Postpartum body: new mom holding baby

Vaginal bleeding after a C-section occurs because the lining of the uterus, which has grown to be very thick during pregnancy, sloughs off after delivery and removal of the placenta. The resulting discharge, which is called "lochia," is a mix of this uterine tissue, blood, and mucus. Lochia starts off red with small clumps, then changes into brown, pink, and creamy white colors.

People who have had a C-section will typically have less lochia than those with vaginal births. That's because doctors clean out the uterus after a C-section to ensure the placenta and membranes have been completely removed, says Amy Magneson, M.D., an Ob-Gyn with CareMount Medical in New York. But bleeding still occurs. So how long do you bleed after a C-section? What is normal—and can you bleed too much?

Here's everything you need to know about vaginal bleeding.

How Long Do You Bleed After a C-Section?

Most people experience vaginal bleeding for several weeks. "Bleeding varies from one patient to another, but it may occur for up to four-six weeks," says Pamela Promecene, M.D., professor and obstetrician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth/UT Physicians in Houston.

How Heavy Is the Bleeding?

The amount of blood you see will be contingent on several factors, including your body and timing. Bleeding will be heaviest in the first few days after a C-section. It will then taper off as you continue recovery, says Dr. Promecene. Clots can range in size, from almost imperceivable to the size of a nectarine or plum. You'll also notice color variations. Immediately after birth, most people bleed bright red; however, as time progresses, the color will shift to brown to pink and, ultimately, white.

Can You Bleed Longer Than Six Weeks?

Some people will have bleeding that continues for longer than normal. This can happen for a few reasons. Occasionally, part of the placenta or membranes that make up the amniotic sac is left behind after removal. Having even a small amount of membranes or placenta still attached to the uterine wall can lead to quite a bit of bleeding.

Another reason for bleeding longer than 6 weeks is choriocarcinoma, a rare condition that can develop after a miscarriage, termination, or delivery. It happens when some of the cells of the placenta continue to grow, despite the pregnancy being over. Choriocarcinoma can be a very dangerous condition, since the bleeding continues until the patient is treated by her physician.

Lastly, placement of an IUD (intrauterine device) or starting birth control pills after delivery can also cause of abnormal bleeding. Most of these conditions are harmless, but the bottom line is that any bleeding after 6 weeks should be discussed with a health care provider.

How Can You Control Bleeding After a C-Section?

The best way to "control" bleeding after a C-section is to wear extra-absorbent maternity pads, like the ones you get at the hospital. Be sure to change them regularly. Switch to thinner sanitary pads as the postpartum bleeding slows down, and do not use tampons—as most doctors advise against them in days and after birth.

When Should You Worry About Vaginal Bleeding After a C-Section?

According to Dr. Promecene, you should contact your doctor "if the bleeding tapers off, then becomes heavy with clots" or if it has a foul-smelling odor. These symptoms might signal an infection.

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