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What are Maternity Pads?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Maternity pads, also known as post-natal pads, are a type of sanitary napkin meant to be worn by women to catch post-pregnancy bleeding. While some women choose to use standard sanitary pads after giving birth, many prefer the larger size and extra absorbency that some maternity pads provide. The duration of time that a woman must use the pads will vary according to her post-natal recovery time as well as whether she breastfeeds her baby. When changing pads, women should be sure to notify their health care professional if they appear to be bleeding heavily or if they notice an unpleasant odor, which may indicate a post-natal infection. In cases where a woman feels faint or experiences fever after giving birth, she should likewise contact a medical professional.

After giving birth, most women experience postnatal bleeding, also known as lochia, from the vagina for several weeks. This bleeding continues as the uterus sheds its lining, placental tissue, as well as cervical mucus. Immediately after giving birth, this bleeding may be particularly heavy requiring that one or more maternity pads be placed in a woman's underwear. Nurses may pay attention to the number of maternity pads a new mother requires to assess whether she is experiencing unusually heavy bleeding, which may be an indication of a hemorrhage.

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Some women will bleed for a relatively short period of time after giving birth, so they may need to use maternity pads for only a limited amount of time. Women who breastfeed, for example, may have a short period of post-pregnancy bleeding because breastfeeding can cause the uterus to contract, facilitating healing as well as the passage of blood and other biological material.

Postpartum bleeding may or may not require the use of special maternity pads. The pads are often made in long lengths, which can be useful in guarding against leaks during a time when a woman may be lying down or reclining more than she usually does. Some pads are also constructed from hypoallergenic materials to help prevent further irritation of the vaginal area during postpartum recovery. Some women find, however, they do not need specialty pads beyond the first few days after giving birth. These women may often switch to their favorite brand of menstrual pad. Women are generally advised against using tampons until they have completed postpartum healing, which can range anywhere from four to six weeks after giving birth.

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