How to Control Discharge After Pregnancy

Four Methods:Controlling Discharge with Self-Help StrategiesAssessing the DischargeControlling Discharge by Helping Your Uterus ContractSeeking Medical Help

Every mother will experience a certain amount of discharge after she gives birth. Normally this discharge will go through three stages that last for a total of six weeks. Dealing with discharge can be unpleasant, but it is important that you keep track of your discharge and make sure that everything is as it should be. You can do this by assessing your discharge on your own, making sure your uterus muscles have contracted, practicing self-help techniques, and seeking medical help if you need it. Scroll down to Step 1 to learn more.

Method 1
Controlling Discharge with Self-Help Strategies

  1. Image titled Control Discharge After Pregnancy Step 1
    Clean your perineum often. The perineum is the area between your vagina and your anus. During childbirth, this area can suffer some injury, so it is important to make sure that it is clean and does not become infected. If it becomes infected, the infection may move up into your body and change the color of your discharge. Cleaning your perineum will also help to make passing your discharge as comfortable as possible. To clean:
    • Wash your perineum with unscented, gentle soap and warm water. Scented soaps can contain chemicals that can lead to infection. Use clean wipes, like baby wipes, to wash, rather than a washcloth (this is simply for cleaning purposes—if you don’t have baby wipes, you will just have to wash the washcloth after you use it).
    • Clean the labia first. Using separate wipes, wipe the area from least contaminated (pubis/vagina) to the most contaminated (anus). This is to prevent transmission of microorganisms from one area to the other.
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    Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible to increase your oxytocin levels. If you plan on breastfeeding your child, start doing so as soon as possible. When you breastfeed your baby, your body is prompted to release oxytocin, a natural chemical that helps your uterus to contract fully.
    • Oxytocin is also used to control the intensity of your discharge. If you do not plan to breastfeed your child, you can get oxytocin supplements (this is covered in Step 1 of Method 4).
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    Avoid using scented soaps or douching. As discussed in the step about cleaning your perineum, you should avoid scented soaps while you are still producing discharge. Scented soaps can contain chemicals that can alter the pH levels in your vagina, making you more susceptible to infection.[1]
    • The same goes for douching. It is best to avoid putting anything in your vagina, be it a douche or a tampon, while you are dealing with discharge. Putting anything foreign in your vagina can introduce bacteria that could lead to an infection.
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    Do not ‘hold’ your urine—go to the bathroom frequently. After you deliver your baby, your bladder becomes less sensitive for a period of time after childbirth. You might not notice that the bladder is full, which makes it harder for your bladder to contract. When you bladder is full, your uterus also has a harder time contracting, meaning that your discharge could be heavier than it should be.
    • To make sure that your bladder remains as empty as possible, go to the bathroom and urinate as frequently as you can.
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    Rest as much as possible to help your body recover. You have just given birth to a living, breathing human being—you should take some time to rest. Resting helps your body to recover and repair itself from the crazy thing it has just gone through. When you avoid overworking yourself, your uterus also has an easier time contracting, which will make your discharge lighter and easier to manage.
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    Stay hydrated. Try to drink as much water as you need to stay hydrated; doctors generally recommend between 8 and 12 glasses a day. Water helps to flush out substances like discharge. Being hydrated also helps your body combat any infections that might be trying to take root in your body.
    • If you get tired of water, add some fruit juice to it to give it some flavor.
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    Wear loose, light underwear. When you wear tight underwear that does not let your skin breathe, you increase the chances that you will develop an infection. This is particularly true when you are dealing with discharge. Because of this, it is important to wear loose underwear that let’s your skin breathe.
    • Cotton is a good fabric to go with when looking for breathable underwear. The fabric is light and does not stick to your skin. It also absorbs sweat, which reduces the chances that you will develop a fungal infection.

Method 2
Assessing the Discharge

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    Keep track of how much blood you are losing. While it is normal to lose blood through your discharge, it is not normal to lose an excessive amount of it. Because of this, it is important to monitor your blood loss by looking at the the perineal pads your doctor will recommend that you wear. What to look for will be discussed in this section.[2]
    • You should use pads instead of tampons for a couple of reasons. The first is that pads will help you keep track of your blood loss much more easily than tampons will. The second is that tampons can introduce new bacteria into your vagina, making it more likely that you will get an infection.
    • Do not use scented pads because the chemicals that make them smell nice can increase your chances of infection.
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    Note the color and odor of the discharge. The color of your discharge will change as times passes after you have given birth. As discussed in the introduction, you should only really have to deal with discharge for six weeks after you give birth. There are three kinds of discharges (which are also called lochia) that should appear in the following order[3]:
    • 2 to 4 days after childbirth: Lochia Rubra is a bright red vaginal discharge with a fleshy smell. It is made up of blood, decidua, and other debris from the uterus.
    • 4 to 10 days after childbirth: Lochia serosa appears to be brownish-pink because it consist old blood, leukocytes, and other tissue debris.
    • 10 to 14 days after childbirth, lasting for 6 weeks: Lochia Alba is a creamy white vaginal discharge that consists of leukocytes, mucus, epithelial cells, and bacteria.
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    Know what infected discharge looks like. We have just covered the normal stages of your discharge. If, at any point, your discharge becomes thick, yellow, and has a bad smell, it is an indication that you have an infection in your reproductive system. Go to the hospital right away so that you can get started on antibiotics.
    • The antibiotics used will be covered in Method Four.
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    Keep track of what kind of pads you are using. When monitoring your discharge after childbirth, it’s important to keep track of how long you can wear a pad before you have to change it (because this will give you an idea of how much you are bleeding). However, perineal pads vary in soaking time and appearance according to their brands.
    • It is a good idea to use the same pads every day so that you can get a better idea of how much discharge your body is creating each day. You should estimate the amount of blood you are losing each day (3 pads worth, etc.) and write down the amount.
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    Know the ‘normal’ amounts of discharge are and compare them to your own discharge. When looking at your pads, it may help to have a reference point from which to assess your own discharge. Scant, light, moderate, and heavy discharges are all normal. Excessive discharge means you need to get to the hospital immediately. These terms refer to the size of the discharge on your pad, and how long the pad took to be soaked. They are discussed below.[4]
    • Scant: Less than 2.5 cm (1 inch) on menstrual pad in 1 hour.
    • Light: Less than 10 cm (4 inches) on menstrual pad in 1 hour.
    • Moderate: Less than 15 cm (6 inches) on menstrual pad in 1 hour
    • Heavy: Saturated menstrual pad in 1 hour.
    • Excessive: Menstrual pad saturated in 15 minutes. Seek immediate medical help.

Method 3
Controlling Discharge by Helping Your Uterus Contract

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    Understand that assessing the fundus is one of the most common ways to make sure that your uterus has contracted. One of the leading causes of excessive of bleeding is the failure of the uterus muscles to contract. Assessing the fundus is one way to detect if the uterus is contracting properly or not.
    • You can do this home (as described in the following steps) and should report any problems to your doctor if you notice them.
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    Locate your fundus. First of all, go to the bathroom and get rid of all of your urine. A full bladder can change the position of your fundus, so get it all out before you try to locate your fundus. Your fundus is the top area of your uterus, and can be felt by pressing down on your navel or umbilicus. Your fundus should decrease in size each day after childbirth.[5]
    • Keep in mind that ‘palpate’ and ‘press on’ mean the same thing. If you talk to your doctor about this process, he or she may use the word palpate or palpitation. Keep in mind that they mean pressing down with your fingers on some part of your body.
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    Assess your fundus to figure out whether or not your uterus has contracted. A normal fundus is firm and can be palpated on the midline. A ‘boggy’ uterus many indicate that your uterus has not fully contracted yet after childbirth. If you press on your uterus, you may find that if feels soft or soggy, rather than firm. This must be fixed right away (how to help your uterus contract is covered in the next step).[6]
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    Give yourself a fundal massage to help your uterus muscles to contract. When your uterus have not contracted fully, you run the risk of losing a lot of blood through your discharge. Because of this, you need to help your uterus to contract, or seek medical help. To perform a fundal massage, gently press down on the fundus and give in a massage. You may feel it begin to firm up under your hands. This is your uterus contracting.
    • If you are still in the hospital, a nurse will do this for you. If you are at home and are concerned about doing this yourself, go to a hospital right away.

Method 4
Seeking Medical Help

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    Get a prescription for oxytocin to balance out your hormone levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps your uterus contract. When your uterus contracts, your blood vessels will close up and keep your discharge at a normal level. If you have low levels of oxytocin, your doctor may prescribe supplements for you to take to help keep you healthy.[7]
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    Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for metronidazole if you have an infection in your reproductive system. If you develop a vaginal infection after you give birth, doctor will most commonly prescribe an antibiotic called metronidazole. The common dosage is 200 mg taken three times a day for five to seven days.[8]
    • You should also talk to your doctor about discontinuing other antibiotics and over-the-counter medications. This is because these medications can interfere with the normal microbes found in your body. When the balance of microbes in your body is changed, you risk the chance of developing an infection.
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    Know the symptoms of Hypovolemic shock and that you should seek immediate medical help if you are experiencing them. Hypovolemic shock occurs when you lose a massive amount of blood (about one-fifth of your total blood). If you experience this, or your partner is experiencing this, you should get to the hospital immediately. Symptoms of hypovolemic shock include[9]:
    • The menstrual pad saturated in 15 minutes.
    • Fainting or lightheadedness.
    • Anxiety.
    • Skin turns to ashen or grayish.
    • Skin is cool and clammy.
    • The pulse has Increased rapidly.
    • Rapid breathing.
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    Know that surgery will be considered if you suffer from a postpartum hemorrhage. A postpartum hemorrhage occurs when tissue is left behind in your uterus after you have delivered your child. This can cause heavy bleeding starting in the first 24 hours to 3 weeks after delivery.[10]
    • If you have this, you will most likely have a surgical procedure done that is call dilatation and curettage. During this procedure, the extra tissue will be removed.
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    Consider a hysterectomy as the very last option if the bleeding continues and puts you in danger. If every other option to contract your uterus has failed and you are losing too much blood, a hysterectomy may be considered. During this procedure, your uterus will be removed to stop the bleeding. This is only considered as the very last option.


  • Avoid sexual intercourse for at least 6 weeks if you got stitches after giving birth.
  • If you are diabetic, talk to your doctor about continuing to take your medications. When your sugar levels increase, you have a high chance of developing an infection in your reproductive system.


  • If your bleeding is excessively heavy, seek immediate medical attention.

Sources and Citations

  1. Mosby. 2006. Mosby’s Pocket Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Professions. Elsevier Singapore. 5th edition.
  2. Dela Cruz, Y., Serdan, M., Gesmundo M. 2009. Nursing Board Exam Review Notes. Center for Excellence in Nursing Education Research and Publication Department. 1st edition.
  3. Wong, D., Perry, S., Hockenberry, M., Lowdermilk, D., and Wilson, D. 2009. Maternal and Child Nursing Care. Elsevier, Singapore. 3rd edition.
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Categories: Pregnancy