It's no surprise that giving birth leaves a certain amount of blood and gore to deal with. However, it is sometimes surprising just how much of it there can be. I remember thinking, "How is there even this much blood in my body?" Interspersed with thoughts like, "I'm reasonably certain that blood clot was at least the size of my baby's fist." For this kind of crimson tide, you know there's got to be some special consideration given as to what pads you'll need, and also, how many pads you need postpartum. Let me tell you — the number in your head? Double it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lochia, the blood that arrives shortly after delivering your baby, will be heaviest with a vaginal birth, as will the blood that continues to flow like a river from between your thighs for weeks afterwards. But women who undergo C-sections will still experience some bleeding. That means that the number of sanitary pads you'll require will be at least partially incumbent on how you give birth.
If you spend any time on mommy boards, you'll note that there is really no standard number of pads you'll need. Some women said they were fine using regular period pads, while other women would continue using the hospital pads for a week or more.
About those hospital pads. Yes, they're huge, feel like you're sitting on a wet pillow when they're filled, and they're worn with mesh underpants that look like a club outfit gone horribly, horribly wrong. But, those suckers (pun intended) are miracle workers. I have anemia, so with my births, my postpartum bleeding may or may not resemble any number of Wes Craven murder scenes. So those river raft-like pads are just what the doctor ordered. I definitely bargained with the nurses to take home as many as possible. (Seriously, I'm paying a king's ransom to be there, might as well take the toiletries, am I right?)
And it's two weeks, for me, before I see any tapering or relief. New Horizon's Women's Care OB-GYN wrote that this is not abnormal. They wrote that after "four to five weeks your bleeding should taper off, becoming dark red to brown and then yellow. Some days you may not bleed at all and then bleed again tomorrow. You will bleed more after activity." We've all been there with our periods. You're sitting down at the computer, working for a while, and then as soon as you stand up, you feel it. It can be messy.
The website also noted that there is such a thing as too much bleeding postpartum, writing that "soaking pads or using more than two pads an hour is not normal. If your bleeding is this heavy, you should go to bed" and call your OB-GYN for further instructions.
When I had my children, the lovely postpartum nurses told me to plan for a couple of weeks of using at least a package of heavy flow with wings pads per week. Week three, you may need another package, but you might be able to switch to the thinner varieties, too. Regardless of the size, you'll still need to change your change your pad every three to five hours, according to Healthy Parents Healthy Children. Your body is healing and therefore at a higher risk of infection than it normally is. Keeping your pads fresh, and your perineum as clean as possible, minimizes these risks.
I went through an entire package of hospital pads, and about three additional packages of pads ranging from the uber-thick overnight variety, all the way down to "barely over a pantyliner." It will just depend on your body, and how you deliver. Thankfully, since Target and Amazon know everything about us, you're likely already getting gobs of coupons for the things. I suggest making hearty use of them.