Bleeding after birth: concerns

Blood loss after giving birth is normal. For some women, the blood loss may be heavier, smelly or they may pass clots. Read about heavy bleeding after birth and more.

Some women experience problems such as excessive blood loss, and these are described below. If you feel that you have any of these problems related to bleeding after birth, contact your midwife, GP or health visitor and ask for help. There are a number of different reasons why your body may be prevented from recovering straightforwardly. Sometimes, for example, a small piece of the placenta can get left inside the womb, which may mean you will need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

To find out what is a normal amount or colour of blood loss as you would see it on a standard absorbent sanitary pad, read our guide to blood loss after birth. If this is your first baby and you have previously used tampons, you may not know how much blood to expect.

You have passed blood clots after giving birth

For the first two to three days after birth, some women pass clots which can be quite large (the size of a small orange) or several smaller ones (less than 10p size) and have no further problems. Some women also pass some very small clots (the size of your little fingernail or less) once or twice in the first 10 days and again this does not lead to any further problems.

However, if you pass any large clots after the first few days (as big as a small orange) or you continue to pass clots or have a much heavier blood loss than you had before, it’s important to contact your midwife or GP straightaway. If you’re concerned about your loss and you’re at home, keep any heavily stained pads or any clots you may have passed and show them to your midwife or GP.

You think your bleeding is too heavy after giving birth

From about a week after the birth, you should be losing less blood, although the amount may be variable for several days. If the loss gets heavier than it was at first and continues as a heavy or moderate loss for longer than a week, tell your midwife, health visitor or GP. Again, it is helpful to keep your sanitary pads to show them.

You think your blood loss is smelly

Vaginal blood loss has a very slight smell – a sort of irony (metallic), heavy smell. It’s not a ‘bad’ or offensive smell, but in the first two or three days after the birth you may notice this and it is normal. If you're aware that the blood you are losing smells even if you have just changed a pad or it is not long since your last bath or shower and/or the blood has also changed in colour from what has become normal for you, this could be a sign of infection. This could be in the uterus, or in and around the vagina if you had any tears or cuts. Contact your midwife or GP as soon as possible.

You have pain in your lower stomach or pelvis

If you have pains that you don’t think are after pains or caused by constipation, this could be an infection in the womb or a urinary infection. Contact your midwife, health visitor or GP as soon as possible if you think this might be the reason.

You feel shivery and unwell, have abdominal pains and a loss that is different – heavier or lighter, or smelly

This is a combination of the problems above; you may have an infection in the womb and again you should contact your GP straightaway.

Last updated: 3 February 2015

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

Further healthcare information related to this topic can be found by visiting the MIDIRS website for consumers at www.choicesforbirth.org, or the MIDIRS website for healthcare professionals at www.infochoice.org.