How many pads should I buy for after delivery?

Deciding how many pads to buy for postpartum bleeding after giving birth can be tricky. The amount needed varies from woman to woman and depends on several factors. Having the right amount of pads on hand will ensure you are prepared to manage lochia (postpartum bleeding) comfortably. This article will provide tips on estimating how many pads you may need those first few weeks after delivery.

How long does lochia last?

Lochia refers to the vaginal discharge that occurs after delivery as the uterus contracts and sheds its lining. Lochia typically lasts for 4-6 weeks, though it can persist up to 8 weeks for some women. Here is a general timeline for lochia:

  • First 3 days after delivery: Lochia is heavy and bright red.
  • Days 4-10: Bleeding becomes lighter and may change to a pinkish or brownish color.
  • Weeks 2-6: Discharge continues but lightens to a cream or pale yellow color.

The heaviest flow occurs within the first few days after giving birth. You will need plenty of pads during this time. As the lochia tapers off over the coming weeks, you can transition to lighter pads or pantyliners.

How much will I bleed after delivery?

The amount of bleeding can vary significantly:

  • Light lochia: Change pad every 3-4 hours
  • Moderate lochia: Change pad every 1-2 hours
  • Heavy lochia: Change pad every 30 minutes to 1 hour

For the first 3 days in particular, the flow may be very heavy. Some women describe it as a heavy menstrual period or even heavier. You may need to change pads as often as every hour or two during this time.

As a general guideline, expect to go through 6-8 pads per day in the early postpartum period. This number decreases as bleeding tapers off over the following weeks. However, keep in mind each woman’s experience is unique. Your midwife can provide guidance on what to expect based on your individual circumstances.

What size pads will I need?

For the heavy flow right after delivery, most women prefer extra-absorbent maxi pads. These provide maximum protection against leaks.

Here are some recommended pad sizes for postpartum:

  • First 3 days: Overnight extra-heavy maxi pads, 17-20 inches long
  • Next 7-10 days: Extra-heavy maxi pads, 14-17 inches long
  • Following weeks: Regular maxi pads, 11-13 inches long
  • After heavy bleeding subsides: Regular pads or pantyliners

Maternity or adult diapers are another option for the very heavy flow immediately after delivery. However, many women find maxi pads more comfortable.

Choose pads with a waterproof backing to give you leak protection. Unscented pads are preferred to avoid irritating the sensitive vaginal area. Pads containing cooling ingredients can also help soothe postpartum discomfort.

How many pads should I buy?

As a rough estimate, you may need:

  • 180-240 maxi pads for the first week postpartum
  • 240-360 regular maxi pads for the next 2-3 weeks as flow decreases
  • Pantyliners or thin pads for light spotting after heavy bleeding stops

So in total, expect to use 400-600 pads over the course of your entire lochia. However, each woman’s needs vary. You may need more or less than this guideline.

To be fully prepared, buy 1-2 packs each of extra-heavy overnight maxi pads, regular maxi pads, and pantyliners. This will give you a good stock to get through the first several weeks as you gauge your individual needs. You can always pick up more if needed.

Here is an example shopping list:

Product Number of packs
Overnight extra-heavy maxi pads 2 packs
Regular maxi pads 2 packs
Pantyliners 1 pack

This would provide:

  • 40-60 overnight maxi pads
  • 80-120 regular maxi pads
  • 50-100 pantyliners

Some key tips when stocking up on postpartum pads:

  • Buy different sizes to meet changing needs.
  • Maxi pads with wings provide better protection.
  • Stock up before your due date.
  • Have extras on hand so you don’t run out.
  • Ask the hospital for pads to take home after delivery.

What about alternative menstrual products?

While pads are the go-to for managing lochia flow, you may also consider period underwear or reusable cloth pads. These sustainable alternatives allow you to reduce waste after delivery. However, they typically hold less fluid than disposable pads. For very heavy lochia, maxi pads may still be your best option.

If choosing reusable products:

  • Have at least 5-10 pairs of period underwear or cloth pads.
  • Ensure they are absorbent enough for a heavy flow.
  • Have disposable pads as backup for times when extra protection is needed.

Menstrual cups are not recommended for postpartum use until your midwife confirms your vaginal area has fully healed, which takes several weeks.

Tips for coping with heavy lochia

The heavy blood loss immediately after delivery can come as a shock. Here are some tips to help manage:

  • Use plastic-backed bed pads to protect mattresses.
  • Try darker sheets/towels to hide stains during heavy flow.
  • Shower and change pads frequently to stay clean.
  • Use hot/cold therapy to ease cramps and soreness.
  • Take it easy and avoid activities that worsen flow.
  • Ask your midwife about natural supplements to slow bleeding.
  • Eat iron-rich foods to replace nutrients lost.

While heavy lochia can be an unpleasant postpartum symptom, it’s a normal part of the recovery process as the uterus heals. Flow typically lightens up significantly after the first week. Still, don’t hesitate to call your midwife if you are soaking through an unusually high number of pads or feel the bleeding seems excessive.

Warning signs of abnormal lochia

In most cases, lochia follows a predictable timeline of gradually slowing down over several weeks. However, abnormal changes in bleeding can sometimes be a sign of postpartum complications. Contact your midwife right away if you experience:

  • Sudden gush or heavy flow increase
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Severe pain or cramps
  • Clots larger than a golf ball
  • Bleeding that persists longer than 6-8 weeks
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or short of breath

While nuisance bleeding can happen when overdoing activity too soon, the above symptoms may indicate issues needing prompt medical care. Possible complications associated with abnormal lochia include:

  • Retained placenta fragments
  • Infection of the uterus or C-section incision
  • Hemorrhage
  • Uterine atony (failure of uterus to contract)

Don’t wait to get checked out if your lochia seems abnormal. Postpartum complications are most safely treated when identified right away.

When to call the doctor about lochia

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Soaking more than 2 pads per hour for 2 hours straight
  • Bleeding is still heavy after 4 days
  • You pass blood clots larger than a golf ball
  • Foul odor coming from vaginal discharge
  • Uterine cramping that doesn’t improve with pain medication
  • Fever over 100.4°F
  • Generally feeling unwell, faint, or short of breath

Postpartum bleeding should slow down day by day, not suddenly increase. Any deviation from normal lochia warrants a call to your healthcare provider to rule out complications. Don’t wait – early treatment leads to the best outcomes.

Getting back to normal after delivery

While lochia can last up to 6 weeks, most women feel ready to get back to normal much sooner. Here is a general timeline for postpartum recovery:

  • First week: Rest and heal. Bleeding is heavy.
  • Weeks 2-3: Gradually increase activity. Discharge decreases.
  • Weeks 4-6: More energy returns. May be ready for sex again.
  • Around 6 weeks: Usually OK’d for exercise and regular activity.

The 6-week postpartum checkup offers reassurance that healing is complete. Your doctor will examine your C-section incision if you had one and confirm your uterus has contracted back to normal size.

Be patient with your body during the recovery process. Rest as much as possible and let others handle chores and baby care in the early weeks. Don’t rush back into exercise or sex before your body is ready. Follow your healthcare provider’s guidance on when to safely return to normal routines.

Staying comfortable after delivery

Coping with lochia takes some adjustment. Here are tips to help you stay comfortable after delivery:

  • Change pads frequently to avoid leaks or odor.
  • Use cold therapy to relieve soreness and swelling.
  • Wear dark loose bottoms in case of leaks.
  • Choose cotton underwear to let area breathe.
  • Use a squirt bottle of warm water to clean yourself.
  • Try herbal padsicles for soothing relief.
  • Take sitz baths to keep the area clean.
  • Use witch hazel pads to ease soreness.
  • Have supplies handy wherever you nurse or rest.

Being prepared with enough pads and comfort items will help you take postpartum bleeding in stride. As lochia dissipates, you can transition back to usual hygiene practices.


Stocking up on 400-600 pads is prudent to be fully prepared for at least 5-6 weeks of lochia. Buy overnight extra-heavy maxi pads for the heavy flow right after delivery, then switch to regular maxi pads as bleeding decreases. Have pantyliners or thin pads ready for residual light spotting. Reusable period underwear or cloth pads are eco-friendly alternatives that also work well, provided they are absorbent enough.

It is impossible to predict exactly how much you will bleed after giving birth. Each woman’s experience varies. The key is having enough pads on hand so that you never run out before your lochia tapers off completely. With the right supplies and some comfort measures, you can manage postpartum bleeding confidently and focus on healing. Don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if your lochia seems abnormal or you have other concerns. With prompt attention to any issues, you will soon be back to normal and enjoying life with your new baby.

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