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Lochia or post-partum bleeding: Can a menstrual cup be used after childbirth?

 

So that's it, after 9 months of waiting as patiently as you could, your baby has arrived along with so much pleasure and joy ... and insomnia. Your body starts to slowly recover from pregnancy and childbirth; it is quite normal for the post-partum process to take several weeks. Symptoms of this process include lochia, the blood loss that occurs right after birth. What is it exactly? How long does lochia last? What personal hygiene measures should be taken or what should be avoided to manage it on a daily basis? When can I start using my menstrual cup? 

Is it normal to bleed after delivery?

YES! It is quite normal whether you have delivered vaginally or by caesarean section. During pregnancy, the uterus enlarges and thickens as the foetus grows. To illustrate this, it goes from the size of a pear to that of a big BIG watermelon. In addition to growing, the uterus develops a new organ: the placenta, which will provide nutrients to the foetus, rid it of the waste it produces and secrete hormones. Once the baby is born, about 30 minutes after birth, the uterus contracts to expel the placenta leaving a wound on the uterine wall. The uterus also begins to get rid of its internal mucosa, which is no longer required after the birth. This is lochia. It is part of the natural post-partum process, during which the uterus will return to its original size in 6 to 8 weeks. So don't worry!

Post-partum bleeding: what can I expect?

Post-partum or lochial bleeding is a mixture of blood and debris from the uterine lining. In fact, at first it looks a lot like a period, even though technically it's not the same thing:

  • The first 2 to 4 days after birth: Lochia is VERY VERY abundant (think "Niagara Falls") and bright red. There may also be blood clots, but if they are as big as a golf ball, you need to seek medical advice.
  • From the 4th day and for the next one to two weeks: the loss of blood diminishes and the lochia becomes pink, sometimes brown.
  • Around the 12th day post-partum and for the next 3-4 days: Bleeding regains intensity, which is due to the pregnancy hormones falling. But it's nothing at all to do with your period, because your menstrual cycle has not yet resumed.
  • Until 6 weeks after childbirth: Lochia is light yellow or white. It should smell similar to a period.

Lochia can last for up to 6 weeks after delivery. If you breastfeed, feeding will produce oxytocin, a hormone that will cause contractions of the uterus and shorten how long lochia lasts. If you have had twins or triplets, your lochia may be more abundant and last longer.

Lochia: how to manage it?

Since it looks a lot like a period, you may be tempted to use the same things to absorb or collect it: tampons, pads or a menstrual cup. But be careful, periods and lochia are two different phenomena and you don't manage them in the same way!

 

The cervix and cervical mucus act as a barrier to the bacteria found in the vagina to prevent them from getting back into the uterus, which must remain free of bacteria. During delivery, the cervix expands to allow the baby to pass through, and this reflex is triggered even if delivery is by caesarean section. It takes several weeks for the cervix to close and during this time it no longer plays its role as a barrier to bacteria.

While lochia is present, it is therefore important not to insert anything into the vagina, because no bacteria must be introduced that could then go back into the uterus.

Unfortunately, this means that you have to avoid baths, the swimming pool, and penetrative sex, and you must not use tampons or menstrual cups. So that leaves pads, but not just any kind: you need the not especially sexy but very practical super-absorbent mesh panties: They have the advantage of being very absorbent and thick, which will allow you to sit down without too much difficulty. You will be given some in the maternity ward, but get yourself a small stock for at home too.

When it comes to intimate hygiene, you don't need to carry out a complete personal hygiene routine every time you go to the loo. Giving yourself a wash in that area once a day is plenty; just use water or a liquid soap with a suitable pH. 

Lochia: when should you be worried?

If your lochia has an unpleasant smell like rotten fish or if you bleed at an unexpected time, seek medical advice: it may be a sign of infection of the uterus due to placenta debris or a poorly evacuated blood clot. The same thing applies if the bleeding is so heavy that you fill a pad in 1 hour: let your health professional know straightaway (midwife, gynaecologist ...) because you are at risk of losing too much blood.

Don't forget the most important thing of all: take good care of yourself.

You and your body have just been through a long and (often) difficult period: pregnancy and childbirth. You have carried a child for 9 months, and now that he is born, the uterus is "cleaning up" and slowly recovering from this upheaval. The inevitable stage of lochia is a reminder that it is important to take this time (and more!) to recover and take care of yourself and your baby.

 

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