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OBJECTIVE: To describe the range of normal vaginal loss as reported by women from 24 hours after delivery until three months postnatally. SETTING: Two health districts in the south of England. METHODS: A prospective survey of women's experiences and expectations of the duration, amount and colour of vaginal loss after childbirth. The term vaginal loss includes all types of fluid loss from the vagina following childbirth. FINDINGS: Five hundred and twenty-four women were recruited to the survey in 1995. Vaginal loss, as reported by the women, was considerably more varied in duration, amount and colour than descriptions in current midwifery textbooks. The median number of days reported for the duration of vaginal loss was 21 days and the interdecile range (10th to 90th percentile) was 10-42 days. For colour of lochia, women overall reported their vaginal loss to be more predominantly red/brown in colour and the traditional descriptions of the timing and colour phases of lochia rubra, serosa and alba are not supported by the majority of the women's experiences. Primiparous women were significantly more likely to report feelings of surprise or shock about their experiences of vaginal blood loss after the birth (odds ratio 4 [95% Confidence Interval 2-9]). Seven primiparous women (2%) were unaware that they would have a blood loss at all after the birth. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The findings from this survey have been used to develop information leaflets for women and health professionals about vaginal loss following childbirth. These leaflets include descriptions of normal ranges for the colour, amount and duration of vaginal loss in the first three months after childbirth.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





72 - 81


Adolescent, Adult, Attitude to Health, Body Fluids, Color, Female, Humans, Postpartum Period, Pregnancy, Prospective Studies, Surveys and Questionnaires, Time Factors, Vagina