Blood loss after giving birth: concerns

After you’ve given birth, you will continue to lose some blood. While this is normal, in some women the blood loss is heavier than expected. This article describes some common problems.

Some women experience problems such as excessive blood loss, and these are described below. If you feel that you have any of these problems, 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 article here. 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

For the first two-to-three days after the birth, some women pass a few quite large clots (the size of a small orange) or several smaller ones (the size of a grape) 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 ten days, and again this does not lead to any further problems. 

However, if you pass any large clots after the first few days or you continue to pass clots or have a much heavier blood loss than you had before, then it is important to contact your midwife, health visitor or GP immediately. If you are concerned about your loss and you are at home, keep any heavily stained pads or any clots you may have passed and show them to your midwife, health visitor or GP.

You think your blood loss is too heavy

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

You are 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. The blood may also have changed in colour. One possible cause is an infection in the uterus, or in and around the vagina if you had any tears or cuts. Let your midwife, health visitor or GP know 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

You may have an infection in the womb and should contact your GP straightaway.

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.