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What is Lochia?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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Lochia refers to the material that is expelled from the uterus after a woman gives birth. It consists of blood, fat cells, mucus, dead uterine tissue, and remnants of the placenta. Lochia is usually appears as a bright red, thick vaginal discharge for the first two to three days after delivery, and tends to become thinner and clearer over the next month, until it stops forming completely. Regular lochia discharge may lead to symptoms of fatigue and weakness for a few weeks after giving birth, as the body reacts to blood loss and begins the healing process. Most women begin feeling normal again after the six week mark with no medical intervention, though individuals who experience extremely heavy or continuous bleeding need to consult their doctors to check for and treat complications.

The placenta usually detaches from the uterine walls and is expelled after delivering a baby, leaving blood vessels exposed. These vessels release blood into the uterus, where it combines with other fluids to form lochia. Blood vessels typically begin to coagulate immediately, reducing blood flow and allowing the uterus to begin healing. It is common for a woman to experience continuous, bloody discharge for up to four days after giving birth, as her body is cleansed of leftover blood and tissue. After about four days, there is usually little blood and solid matter left in lochia discharge.

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By the ten day mark, lochia generally appears pink or white in color, and is released less frequently and in much smaller quantities. It mainly consists of mucus and dead cells from the uterine lining. Discharges tend to become lighter and more transparent over the next two to four weeks, as the last bits of dead tissue, fat cells, and mucous are expelled. Accompanying feelings of fatigue are common until discharges stop, and most women are relieved when they get plenty of rest and maintain a healthy diet throughout the first six weeks after giving birth.

Excessive, foul-smelling, or otherwise abnormal lochia can be a warning sign of a serious medical problem. A woman whose blood vessels do not coagulate after delivering the placenta may be suffering from a torn uterus or uterine atony, a condition wherein her uterine muscles lose their ability to contract and constrict blood vessels. Severe hemorrhaging can result, and the woman is usually required to undergo immediate surgical procedures to stop blood flow. Inflammations and urinary tract infections can also occur, which are generally relieved within a few days with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Women should consult their doctors if they notice any irregular signs after giving birth.

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