Lochia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
Lochia is a medical term used for vaginal discharge occurring after childbirth. It generally contains blood, mucus, and placental tissue. This is a normal phenomenon, which continues for three to four weeks after birth, but may also extend to six weeks in some women.
At the time of childbirth, when placenta separates from the uterus, plenty of blood vessels remain open in the area where the placenta was attached to the uterus. These blood vessels within uterus start bleeding thereby leading to the passage of blood through the vagina. This blood is accompanied by sloughed-off tissue from the lining of the uterus, and called as ‘lochia’.
Lochia: Incidence, age and sex
Lochia is a normal, physiological phenomenon, occurring in every woman after childbirth.
Signs and symptoms of lochia: Diagnosis
The appearance and consistency of lochia varies during its time course. It begins in just a few hours following birth and consists of bright red blood resembling heavy menstrual bleeding. Generally, the vaginal discharge keeps on reducing each day and may become watery and pinkish in colour within a week.
By about ten days after childbirth, the amount of lochia reduces drastically and its appearance becomes white or yellowish-white due to the presence of white blood cells and sloughed-off uterine cells. The amount of vaginal discharge tapers off before coming to an end, which may take up to 4 weeks. Lochia has an odour similar to menstrual blood. It may also be accompanied by small blood clots.
However, it is advisable to seek the advice of a gynaecologist and an obstetrician, if the vaginal discharge extends beyond 6 weeks or more, after childbirth.
Causes and prevention of lochia
As discussed earlier, lochia is a normal occurrence after childbirth, where the lining of the uterus is shed in order to bring it back to its pre-pregnancy size.
Lochia is neither a disease nor a complication of pregnancy. It normally occurs after childbirth. The discharge will taper gradually and finally, cease on its own. However, some women may experience problems with lochia and may need medical attention. These problems constitute bright red discharge for more than a week, and can be accompanied by fever and chills, discharge with bad odour or abnormally heavy bleeding.
Lochia can be managed by using sanitary napkins. It is advisable to avoid using tampons as they increase the risk of infection in healing vaginal tissues and uterus.
Even when there is no urge, one should try to urinate as frequently as possible during the first few days after childbirth, since the urinary bladder is less sensitive during that time. Moreover, a full bladder makes it difficult for the uterus to contract. It is advisable to take adequate rest and nutrition. Avoidance of certain activities like prolonged standing, brisk walking, and lifting heavy weights, is recommended.