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After nine months or more of not having your menstrual cycle, you have to deal with getting your first postpartum period.
Most of the time, your period after birth comes back within a few months to a year depending on whether you breastfeed or not. You might also notice a difference in your period overall postpartum.
Here’s what you need to know about your first postpartum period:
When will you get your first postpartum period?
Every mom’s body is different so this would vary and one woman’s experience could be different from the other. What happened to your friend or sister might not necessarily happen to you.
There are different factors that affect when you would get your first postpartum period:
If you are not breastfeeding
Normally, your period will come back within six to twelve weeks after you give birth. There are studies showing 70% of women will usually have their first period after giving birth by 12 weeks postpartum.
If you are breastfeeding
Some women who are exclusively breastfeeding will not get their period the whole time that they are breastfeeding. This is due to the hormone called prolactin, which is needed when producing breast milk.
These hormones are also responsible for stopping ovulation and curbing reproductive hormones. If you stop breastfeeding late in the first year, you could see your period after 4 to 8 weeks.
You may also see your period come back when you are transitioning to formula or solid foods for your baby. There are also others who won’t get their period until a year after they stop breastfeeding.
You might also get your period while you are breastfeeding. When this happens, you might notice that there are changes to your milk supply or how your baby reacts to your breast milk.
The hormones could affect how your milk tastes or how your baby will nurse.
While breastfeeding, these things can influence when you would be getting your period:
Baby’s sleeping schedule
If your baby is still waking up through the night to feed, this means your body would produce more milk for the baby, meaning more of the prolactin hormones is released, the hormones suppressing your menstruation.
As your baby your baby starts sleeping through the night, there is less prolactin is released, and your period can come back.
If you are introducing solid foods to your baby, this will lead to baby drinking less of your breast milk and would signal your body to produce less milk. This can bring about your postpartum period. Normally baby would start to eat solid foods at around 6 months.
Even if baby might be breastfeeding throughout the night, mom might still get her period after a few months. This is because of your hormones that are unique to each mom.
On the opposite side, you might not see your period even if you are trying to wean from breastfeeding. It is really up to your body.
Other factors that could affect when you would get your period:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Body’s homeostasis
How is your first period after giving birth?
Whether you gave birth naturally or through cesarean operation, you can expect to have some bleeding and vaginal discharge. This is because your body is getting rid of the uterus lining blood and tissue that were present during your pregnancy.
At first, you would be seeing heavier blood clots and later, on you would be seeing vaginal discharge called lochia. This Greek word means “relating to childbirth”.
Lochia is a fluid that could either be creamy or clear, and whitish or red in color. Lochia will usually last for several weeks, even up to 12 weeks. It could even come and go so women might mistake it for their period.
You can tell if it is lochia and not your period if you experience the following:
Lochia is usually lighter or white/clear in color. If you are seeing bright red blood about six weeks or more after you gave birth, it is most likely your first postpartum period.
If the bleeding is related to pregnancy issues, it would most likely increase with more physical activity and lessen when you are resting. This is most likely lochia and not your period
Lochia will have a distinctive sweet smell that you can distinguish. This is because it is combined with the leftover tissue from pregnancy.
Some women might notice that there haven’t been any changes with their period postpartum, while some might notice their period being heavier or lighter.
When you finally have your period after pregnancy, your body will have to adjust back to the menstrual process. Because of this, you could be noticing some differences like:
Changes To Your Postpartum Period
Increase in pain
Because there is an increase in the amount of uterine lining, this means more than usual needs to be shed and uterine cramping will be more intense. Breastfeeding hormones may also cause this increase in pain.
Stronger or lighter menstrual cramping
The increase in uterine lining means cramping may be stronger than what you are used to. Sometimes you might also have a lighter period due to several conditions and so you will also experience mild menstrual cramping.
The intensity of menstrual flow
There are rare conditions like thyroid issues or adenomyosis (when the uterine wall thickens) that can cause heavy bleeding on your first postpartum period.
Another reason why you might notice a heavier period after you have given birth compared to before is that you may have been on the pill or on some kind of hormonal contraception previously. These will usually cause you to have lighter periods.
Postpartum, the heavy menstrual flow may just be your unsuppressed menstrual cycle. If you have gained some weight, this could also be the cause for heavier periods since you are producing more estrogen in the fat cells.
Related: How To Stop Postpartum Hair Loss
When you are pregnant, your body, particularly your liver, works extra hard to get rid of the toxins and chemicals- for both you and your baby. The liver is also responsible for detoxifying excess estrogen and this can cause heavy and painful periods.
If your periods are getting stronger, you can consult your doctor just to make sure everything is normal and there is no underlying issue. You could also be checked for hormonal imbalances or anemia.
On the other hand, there are also times when women who had endometriosis prior to their pregnancy, will actually have a lighter period than before.
Endometriosis is when you experience pelvic pain when you menstruate due to endometrial tissue found outside the uterus.
When a woman has endometriosis, there are structural issues with the pelvis. When you give birth, these may be corrected when the ligaments and tissues will relax in order to deliver the baby.
During pregnancy, the progesterone hormone will also keep your estrogen levels in check. All of these factors will cause your period to become lighter postpartum- which can also be a pleasant surprise to mom!
Light periods can also be due to a rare condition called Asherman syndrome, wherein scar tissue forms in the uterus and inhibits blood from coming out (your period).
Another cause for light periods is the Sheehan syndrome. This is a condition that happens when your pituitary gland gets damaged because of childbirth. When your pituitary glands get damaged, it would also affect the production of the hormones needed to regulate your menstrual cycle.
Length of your cycle
You may notice your cycle will be 45 days at first, then 40, then 35. This is normal as your body is slowly adjusting and starting to get back to normal.
It is important to remember that if you had a vaginal delivery, you might not want to use tampons during your first postpartum period since it could cause trauma and keep your lower area from healing.
Usually, at your six-week postpartum check, your doctor will let you know if/when you can start using tampons again.
Irregular periods after pregnancy
After you have given birth, it may take time for your menstrual cycle to become regular like before. You may have your first postpartum period, then skip the next one. Or you might have your next period in an unexpected time again.
This will go on for about a year which is a normal thing. You will be experiencing inconsistent menstrual cycles and the strength and intensity of your periods will be different as well.
Studies show that most women postpartum will have a menstrual cycle of 21 to 35 days. Bleeding will usually be from 2 to 7 days.
Aside from hormones, other factors that contribute to irregular periods after pregnancy include stress, weight loss/ weight gain, or issues with your thyroid.
Another factor to take into consideration when it comes to irregular periods is that you may be entering the perimenopause or the menopause transition which can happen years before actual menopause. This could be what is causing your erratic periods.
Perimenopause may start as early as your 30’s but is usually common in your mid-40’s.
You may also notice an irregular pattern with your periods if you are breastfeeding because your baby’s needs might be fluctuating. If your baby is constantly feeding through the night, for example, it can stop your period from coming.
It is important to consult your doctor if you have any questions and concerns regarding your postpartum period. When you experience things like soaking through more than one pad every hour, large blood clots, sudden fever, or foul-smelling discharge, it could be a sign of an infection or other issues so it is essential to have a checkup with your doctor.
Breastfeeding as birth control
Some women try to use breastfeeding as a form of birth control and while this may work in some cases, it isn’t a total guarantee. It is also important to exclusively breastfeed meaning no solids or other kinds of fluids are given to the baby, only breast milk.
It could also be possible that you will get your period while breastfeeding and so this would mean you could still get pregnant again.
Aside from breastfeeding, there are also other forms of birth control like condoms, diaphragms, IUD (copper intrauterine device). You may also ask your doctor for any hormonal birth control pills that you can take while breastfeeding.
How to regulate your postpartum menstrual cycle
Once your body is starting to get back to normal, you might want to help your system get back to your usual menstrual cycle. This will also be important especially if you are trying to conceive again. You can try out the following:
Boost your diet
When you try to stick to a healthy diet, your body can function better which will keep your reproductive system healthy. If possible, stay away from processed foods and try to eat natural and organic.
Zinc is important for healthy ovulation as well as keep menstrual cramps at bay.
Magnesium has been known to help ease PMS symptoms like lower back pain or lower abdominal pain. Aside from supplements, you can also up your intake of magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts and seeds, legumes, seafood, and whole grains.
Being relaxed and calm is always good for your body and also to encourage a normal menstrual cycle. You can try to do some yoga, deep breathing exercises, or meditation.
By getting a good night’s sleep, you are keeping your circadian rhythm healthy and regulating hormones needed for the menstrual cycle.
As your body is getting back to its normal functions after pregnancy, getting your period is one thing you will have to adjust to again.
Depending on you and your hormones, your first postpartum period could come as early as six weeks or as late as when you wean your baby. If you are breastfeeding most especially, you are likely to have your period later on compared to if you are formula feeding.
The important thing to remember is that every woman’s body is different and if you have any concerns about your first postpartum period, it is always best to seek help from your doctor.
What are your experiences with postpartum periods?