Postpartum Bleeding and Retained Placenta: Care Instructions

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The placenta forms during pregnancy to give your baby nutrients and oxygen. It also removes waste products.

Normally, the placenta attaches to the top part of the uterus. Then it comes out of your body after the birth.

But sometimes, the placenta does not come out after the birth. This is called a retained placenta. When this happens, your doctor will remove the placenta.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest until you feel better.
  • After the birth, you will have a bloody discharge from the vagina. You may also pass some blood clots that shouldn't be bigger than an egg. Over the next 6 weeks or so, your bleeding should decrease a little every day and slowly change to a pinkish and then whitish discharge.
  • If you have a tear or stitches in your vaginal area, change your pad at least every 4 hours. This will prevent soreness and infection. Do not use tampons until your doctor says it's okay.
  • It's normal to have cramps for the first few days after the birth. They happen because the uterus is going back to normal size. Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not take aspirin. It can cause more bleeding.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of hemorrhage (too much bleeding), such as:
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg, such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • A fever.
    • New or worse pain in your belly.
    • Vaginal discharge that smells bad.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you:

  • Have vaginal bleeding that's not decreasing.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.