You Might Bleed Longer Than You Thought After Giving Birth

Hair loss? Blood clots? Stress incontinence? The fourth trimester isn't for the faint of heart, and really, Society, you ought to do a far better job preparing mothers for it. Too often, women feel that as soon as they give birth, their aches and pains and problems become suddenly irrelevant, even tiresome. One of the scariest side effects of birth has to be the blood loss, so for anyone wondering how long you will bleed after giving birth, here’s the heads up your doctor might, or might not, give you.

Romper spoke with Megan Davidson, PhD, a labor and postpartum doula in Brooklyn, who stresses the importance of having realistic expectations for life postpartum. You're not going to be jogging like new moms in a commercial for a while, and don't be surprised if everything hurts, all the time. "It's best to assume you'll be exhausted and overwhelmed, having cramps and all sorts of aches, and that you will be homebound for a couple weeks," Davidson explains. Even if you do feel great, she suggests lying low, because you still need to rest and heal.

Be compassionate with yourself, and remember that you’re dealing with internal wounds: your placenta was attached to your uterus for months, and in a few hours, it was shorn away. Because childbirth isn't for the faint of heart (like men, obviously), you’ll also be healing from perineal bruising and tears in delicate vaginal tissue. Your vagina’s been through a lot, OK? According to Davidson, you should “expect to bleed for several weeks."

As a postpartum doula, Davidson sees a big part of her role as simply helping women slow down during this time of recovery to keep from exhausting themselves. After I gave birth, I was full of adrenaline. All I wanted was to be up and moving — washing swaddling clothes, setting up diaper stations, learning to use the darn Mobi wrap — but I was running on fumes, and a week later, I collapsed into an exhausted heap. Just because you can’t see all the wounds incurred in childbirth doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Davidson explains that people are often surprised to learn that they’ll be bleeding enough to need pads for weeks. As time passes, however, and vaginal tissues heal, "bleeding tends to slowly taper off . . . and usually becomes more brown. Being too active can prompt more bleeding and is a reminder that your body is still healing." Bleeding is heaviest in the first day, reported Healthline, and the clots you pass early on may be the stuff of nightmares, but I promise, it gets better.

So don’t push yourself postpartum. Trying to do too much too soon will only keep your wounds from healing. Even resting, you can expect to bleed for weeks. Aches and pain are to be expected, but feel free to call your doctor with any concerns. Being a mom doesn’t mean you have to stoically soldier through long-lasting injuries, prolonged bleeding, or pelvic floor issues. In fact, now that a tiny human depends on your health and happiness, taking care of yourself is more important than ever.