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What color is your first period after giving birth?

After giving birth, it’s normal for the first period to have a different color than your regular menstrual flow. The first postpartum period is known as lochia. Lochia often starts out as a heavy, bright red flow and then transitions to a pinkish or brownish discharge before tapering off. This is simply the lining of the uterus shedding as the uterus returns to its non-pregnant state. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect with lochia and the common colors you may see as the body heals after delivery.

What is lochia?

Lochia refers to the discharge consisting of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue that occurs in the first weeks after giving birth. It occurs as the wounded uterus heals and cleanses itself of excess lining built up to nourish the baby during pregnancy.

Lochia serves an important purpose – it allows the uterus to heal and return to its normal size. The flow of lochia also prevents infection by flushing bacteria from the uterus.

The lochia discharge typically continues for 4-6 weeks after delivery, though it can last up to 8 weeks. It transitions from a heavy bright red flow to a scantier pinkish or brownish discharge as the days and weeks pass. The volume, color and consistency of lochia can provide clues about how the body is healing postpartum.

What determines the color of lochia?

The color of lochia depends on how long it has been since you gave birth. Here is an overview of the common lochia colors:

Bright red

In the first few days after delivery, the lochia is usually a bright red color. This is from the loss of fresh blood as the uterine lining sheds. Seeing small blood clots at this stage is normal.

Pinkish red

After about a week, the lochia takes on a pinkish red or brownish red color as the flow lightens. This stage can last until about the second or third week.

Brown or yellow

In the later stages, around weeks 3-4, the discharge lightens to a brown, pink or yellow color. This is the leftover blood mixing with mucus from the healing uterus.

White or yellow

Towards the end of lochia, around weeks 4-6, the discharge can be a whitish or yellow color. At this stage it is mainly mucus and epithelial cells as the body completes healing.

What is normal vs. abnormal lochia?

It’s important to know what is normal and abnormal with lochia so you can monitor your recovery and watch for potential problems.

Here are some characteristics of normal lochia:

– Flow lightens from heavy to scanty over 2-6 weeks
– Color transitions from bright red to pinkish to brownish to yellowish white
– No foul odor

Abnormal lochia to watch out for includes:

Heavy bright red bleeding

If you pass large clots or soak more than one pad per hour for more than a week, this may indicate heavy bleeding. Contact your doctor right away.

Foul-smelling lochia

A bad odor can be a sign of infection. See your doctor if the lochia smells unpleasant.

Prolonged heavy flow

Flow persisting longer than 4-6 weeks that remains heavy and bright red may indicate a problem. Contact your doctor.

Sudden return of heavy bleeding

If lochia transitions to spotting then returns to a heavy flow, this can indicate retained tissue or infection. Seek medical care.

Excessively painful cramps

Some cramping is normal with lochia but excessive pain can be a concern. Contact your doctor.

Tips for managing lochia

To handle lochia and the postpartum period comfortably, keep these tips in mind:

Use pads, not tampons

Stick with pads initially – tampons can introduce bacteria while the cervix is still open. Change pads frequently to stay clean and dry.

Monitor bleeding

Note the color, amount and odor to ensure normal progression. Report concerns to your provider.

Practice good hygiene

Shower daily, change pads frequently and clean the perineal area after using the bathroom to prevent infection.

Take sitz baths

Sitz baths soothe perineal discomfort and keep the area clean. Use epsom salts for additional relief.

Use ice packs

Ice packs can provide relief from pain, swelling and discomfort associated with postpartum recovery.

Get plenty of rest

Rest is essential to allow your body to heal. Prioritize sleep and relaxation. Have help around the house if possible.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost through bleeding. Water, juice and broth help stabilize postpartum fluid balance.

Eat a balanced diet

Focus on eating a healthy, well-rounded diet to nourish your body and support the healing process. Include iron-rich foods like spinach.

Avoid strenuous activity

Take it easy until your doctor gives you the okay for more strenuous exercise. Walking is great once you feel ready.

When to see a doctor

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:

– Heavy bleeding that soaks more than one pad per hour
– Foul-smelling lochia
– Bleeding that starts again after stopping
– Large blood clots
– Severe cramping
– Chills, fever or body aches
– Pain or burning with urination

Getting prompt medical care for abnormal postpartum bleeding or signs of infection can prevent complications.


The color of lochia provides important clues about the state of postpartum recovery. Typical progression is from bright red to pinkish brown to whitish yellow over 2-6 weeks. While heavy flow and bright red blood is normal at first, take note if bleeding remains heavy or foul-smelling for more than a week. With proper self-care and monitoring, most women transition through the phases of lochia smoothly as the body bounces back from the demands of pregnancy and delivery. Pay attention to any symptoms that seem abnormal and discuss concerns with your healthcare provider. With time the lochia tapers off and the uterus returns to its non-pregnant state.