Heavy Bleeding

Birth is bloody, no doubt about it.  I wish I had known about lochia before my first birth, though.  I didn’t fully realize until I was dealing with it that I was going to have that kind of bleeding after the birth.  For me, it was like having a full-blown period for two months…and my periods are not pretty.  I can lose up to a pint of blood with each period if I don’t do something to treat it (normal is less than a quarter of that).  Note that when I am talking about heavy bleeding here, I am not talking about full-on hemorrhaging, the kind of bleeding that actually makes you pass out and requires hospital admission and transfusions and whatnot.  The heavy bleeding I deal with, both postpartum and with menstruation, is always just one notch below that clinical level, enough to make me feel anemic but not enough to make the doctors do anything about it.

As I prepared for my first VBA2C, I came up with a list of supplements I could resort to if I again had heavy lochia.  At the top of my list was the placenta itself, and as it turned out that was all I needed.  My midwife cooked up part of my placenta the night of the birth, and I took the rest of it home and stir-fried it a couple of days later.  My bleeding that time was much lighter, if not shorter, and I opted to have my placenta dried and encapsulated to take after my last birth.

However, if placentophagy is (understandably) not your thing, here is the rest of my list, with a brief explanation of each supplement.  Once again, I am not a health care provider, and you should check with your own health care provider before taking anything.

  • 100 IU vitamin E — The mechanism of this is unclear, but a 1983 study showed this level of supplementation helped reduce heavy menstrual bleeding.  If nothing else, it will help your body rebuild its blood supply and reduce the physical effects of blood loss.
  • 25,000 IU vitamin A twice daily — Again, the specific mechanism is unclear, but another study showed benefit of taking vitamin A for heavy bleeding as well.
  • 100-200 mg iron daily — This one should not be done on your own at all, as getting too much iron can be as dangerous as having too little.  However, if you are clinically anemic, iron supplementation can definitely help with the bleeding.
  • 200 mg vitamin C with 200 mg flavenoids three times daily — Another supplement with published research to support it, vitamin C can help rebuild capillaries and support the immune system.
  • vitex (Agnus castus, chasteberry) — This herb is well-known for balancing female hormones, improving symptoms of PMS and regulating cycles.  It is usually taken over the long-term for these purposes, but starting supplementation postpartum may help shorten the course of a heavy lochia.
  • cinnamon — Cinnamon also helps to regulate hormones, but through a different mechanism.  Cinnamon has been demonstrated in studies to improve insulin resistance, one of the root causes of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and all of its associated problems.  These whole-body balancing effects can also improve milk supply. I actually take cinnamon as a permanent supplement, using 1000 mg/day to replace the 1500 mg/day of metformin that I previously used to treat my PCOS.
  • shepherd’s purse — A more traditional herb for targeting heavy postpartum bleeding, your midwife may even have this in her birth kit.  Shepherd’s purse acts to constrict blood vessels and also directly targets the uterus as a tonic, helping to treat heavy bleeding at the source.

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