Tommy's PregnancyHub

Bleeding after a c-section: what to expect

It’s common to have some bleeding after a caesarean section (c-section). But it’s important to speak to your GP or midwife if you have any unusual bleeding.

How long do you bleed for after a c-section?

You will have some vaginal bleeding (called lochia) for 2–6 weeks after the birth. Bleeding sometimes lasts longer than this, but it should have stopped by 12 weeks.

This bleeding happens after vaginal and c-section births. It mainly comes from where the placenta was attached to the womb. 

How heavy will the bleeding be?

The bleeding may be quite heavy for the first day and is either red or brownish-red in colour. Over the next few weeks, the bleeding should get less heavy and the colour should be a lighter pink or brown. 

You may notice the bleeding gets heavier and looks a brighter red colour each time you breastfeed. This is because you produce hormones when you breastfeed, which cause the womb to contract. You may get a cramping feeling when this happens. You’re more likely to get cramping pain if you’ve had a baby before. 

You may get more bleeding first thing in the morning as blood collects in your vagina when you’re lying down at night. Physical activity can also cause slightly heavier bleeding in the first couple of weeks after the birth. 

Use maternity pads

Using maternity pads, rather than thinner sanitary pads, will make it easier for your midwife to see how much blood you have lost. They may also feel more comfortable to wear.

To reduce the risk of infection: 

  • do not use internal sanitary products, such as tampons and menstrual cups, for the first 6 weeks
  • change your pad each time you visit the toilet
  • wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing your pad.

When to contact your midwife or doctor

Tell your midwife, health visitor or GP if: 

  • your bleeding gets heavier or comes on suddenly
  • you pass any large clots (about the size of a tomato) after the first 24 hours – it’s normal to pass some clots in the first few days but show them to your midwife if you can and tell them if you carry on passing clots
  • you have any signs of infection, such as severe pain, high temperature, shivering or unpleasant smelling vaginal blood or discharge
  • you have any worries about your bleeding.

Read more about your recovery after a c-section.

  1. Deussen AR et al. (2020) Relief of pain due to uterine cramping/involution after birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2020, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD004908. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004908.pub3.
  2. NICE (2021). Postnatal care: NICE guideline 194. National Institute for health and care excellence www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng194
  3. NHS. Your body after the birth. www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/after-the-birth/your-body/ (Page last reviewed: 15/04/2021. Next review due: 15/04/2024)
  4. RCOG (2016). Information for you: Heavy bleeding after birth (postpartum haemorrhage). Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-heavy-bleeding-after-birth-postpartum-haemorrhage.pdf 
  5. University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (2020). Blood loss – what to expect after the birth of your baby. www.uhs.nhs.uk/Media/UHS-website-2019/Patientinformation/Pregnancyandbirth/Blood-loss-what-to-expect-after-the-birth-of-your-baby-maternity-information.pdf 
     
Review dates
Last reviewed: 16 July 2021
Next review: 16 July 2024