After giving birth, it is normal to experience bleeding for a short time. Often, this bleeding will be accompanied by blood clots. For many women, this is harmless. For others, it signals a medical emergency.
Blood clots are red or purple gelatinous masses that come out with blood, especially with heavy bleeding. Blood clots can be many sizes, and can come out as one mass or several small masses. Blood clots that appear after childbirth are part of a healing process known as lochia.
Lochia, also known as postpartum bleeding, occurs after a woman has given birth. Lochia will occur even if a woman has given birth via cesarean section. This is the body's way of getting rid of excessive mucus, placental tissue and blood. Some women mistake lochia for menstrual bleeding, but they are two very different things, though they may look and flow alike. Menstrual bleeding occurs due to hormonal fluctuations between estrogen and progesterone, and lasts a week; lochia is not governed by hormones and may last up to six weeks. Lochia begins bright red; after 10 days it becomes pink, then fades to yellowish-white. This bleeding may come out slowly and gradually, or may be heavy and in gushes. It is common for lochia to be accompanied by several blood clots.
Blood clots in lochia usually come from heavy bleeding or fast-flowing blood. The body normally produces anti-coagulants to keep the blood from clotting as it comes out. However, when there is fast-flowing blood or heavy bleeding, the body may fail to produce anti-coagulants in time, causing blood clots to form.
Lochia bleeding should not consist of any of the following: bright red discharge that lasts more than seven days, discharge with a bad odor, fever or chills, bleeding that soaks a maxi pad every hour, or bleeding that contains blood clots larger than a quarter. According to MayoClinic.com, it is better to use sanitary napkins to catch lochia blood rather than tampons, to reduce the risk of infection.
After giving birth, watch for signs of postpartum hemorrhaging such as extremely heavy bleeding, dizziness, lightheadedness, or passing large blood clots. Any woman experiencing these symptoms must get immediate medical care: Postpartum hemorrhaging is life-threatening.