One of the earliest signs of pregnancy is the lack of a period. Mom receives forty glorious weeks without Aunt Flo making an appearance to offer cramping, bloating, and the overall feeling of ick that comes with menstruating. Sure, pregnancy is hard on the body in different ways, but most women are still grateful for the reprieve from their cycle.
Moms who breastfeed may score themselves some extra Aunt Flo-free time since breastfeeding can suppress ovulation. However, eventually the period is coming back. Unfortunately, for some women the reemergence of their period is a harsh, painful experience.
Pregnancy changes a woman’s body and wreaks havoc on her hormones, so very few things about mom’s body will go back to exactly the way they were before pregnancy. Periods are included in this. Mom may have had a mild, short period that never really affected her daily life before baby, but she now finds herself with a wild cycle that doesn’t give her a break. There’s also a chance that women who had horrible periods before experience easier cycles after baby.
Though there is no way to know for sure what will happen when mom’s period commences after birth, there are a few common threads that seem to show up in post-baby menstrual cycles. Due to hormones and reproductive health prior to conceiving, this experience is different for each woman, but mom can bet that she will probably see some changes in the before and after picture of her period. It’s best to be prepared.
15 Spotting While Nursing
Moms who are exclusively breastfeeding may expect a reprieve from Aunt Flo, so many are surprised when spotting occurs during what they believed would be their grace period. Spotting while nursing is normal, though not fun. The spotting may be pink or brown and can happen for one day and not return for months.
There are a few details mom should know about spotting during breastfeeding. If mom is trying to avoid taking the pill while nursing, she may be depending on exclusive breastfeeding to provide birth control. That’s where spotting can be a bit tricky.
Livestrong published information saying that any bleeding occurring in a mom who is exclusively breastfeeding within the first 56 days of giving birth is not a period. However, after day 56 all bets are off. If a woman bleeds for two days in a row after the 56th day, that is considered a period, even if the bleeding is minimal and just looks like spotting.
Since ovulation comes before a period and mom can be extremely fertile right after giving birth, using a barrier method may be advisable.
Premenstrual syndrome occurs one to two weeks before a woman’s period and brings fun little gifts like mood swings, trouble concentrating, and acne. Most women have endured PMS since their periods started, and they know how to manage the minefield leading up to Aunt Flo’s visit.
What can be hard for moms is the time waiting for their first period after childbirth. No one really wants it back, but mom may start noticing signs of PMS without any period coming to relieve her. Since PMS symptoms are relieved when the period finally arrives and mom moves from the pre-stage, a delayed period can prolong PMS.
In the case of postpartum periods, mom can feel like her PMS is lasting much longer that it should. There are a couple of reasons for this. For moms who suffered with postpartum depression(PPD), the return of PMS can make them feel like they are reliving PPD all over again and like they never really got a break.
For other moms, hormone imbalances may have caused them to feel a bit off the entire postpartum period, so adding legitimate PMS to that can make it feel like all of the symptoms are combining without offering relief.
The period will come. It may be awful, but if it relieves the PMS, mom may actually be thankful for it.
There’s bleeding, then there’s passing clots of blood. The two are not exactly the same, and mom will know the difference the instant she passes her first clot.
Many women dealt with clots in their periods even before baby arrived, but other moms are caught off guard when they notice this new symptom. For the most part it’s normal, but that doesn’t make it any less gross.
Clots tend to come on the days our periods are heaviest, so usually near the beginning. Our bodies are responsible for releasing anticoagulants so period blood will not clot. However, on the heavy days the anticoagulants may not have time to work, so clots come tumbling out.
If clots are larger than a quarter, call a doctor. It’s also okay for mom to call if clots are a new development for her. While they are generally innocuous, mom’s OB can help her better determine if there is reason for concern.
12 Absent Period
For moms who can’t breastfeed or choose not to, they will have the pleasure of recovering from birth and then welcoming a period around 6-10 weeks later. It’s a rough transition, but without baby nursing and suppressing ovulation, mom’s body will know to start releasing an egg again. Mom should be super careful because she can get pregnant even though she has just given birth.
Moms who choose to breastfeed will receive a bit longer of a reprieve. Depending on how often baby breastfeeds, mom may not have a period for the first six months, though that can go even longer. If a child continues to nurse past the six month mark, mom may notice her period doesn’t arrive again for quite some time.
While this is a great gift, it’s important for mom to know that the absence of a period doesn’t mean she can’t become pregnant. For moms who breastfeed even after their children can eat table feed, ovulation can start because the child isn’t nursing as much. Ovulation takes place before the period, so mom can get pregnant without ever having started again.
11 No Birth Control Pill = Different Experience
Many women rely on birth control pills at some point during their lives. Not only does the pill act as a contraceptive, but it also helps with reproductive issues like endometriosis. Doctors may also prescribe it to help women regulate their periods if their body is having trouble doing that on its own.
The pill works because it suppresses ovulation. No egg equals no pregnancy, and even if an egg does get through, most pills thicken the lining of the uterus to make it more difficult for a fertilized egg to embed. However, the pill also takes over the uterus and ovaries and runs the body in a sort of autopilot while mom is taking it.
Because of this hormone control, mom may notice less cramping, predictable periods, and very few signs of premenstrual syndrome(PMS).
That’s why women who decide not to take the pill after giving birth may be in for a surprise when that first period shows up. Without the pill to control hormone production, mom experiences a more authentic experience, and that has its positives and negatives. The negatives may include mood swings, heavy bleeding, and cramping that brings mom to the floor.
If mom wants to return to the pill after birth, she needs to talk to her OB. Women who are breastfeeding need to be cautious about what birth control pill they take.
10 Heavier Bleeding
A common complaint about post-baby periods is the amount of blood involved. Though mom has given birth and suffered all of the postpartum bleeding involved with that experience, she may still be surprised to discover how much blood she passes during her monthly cycle. It’s enough to cause many women concern.
After having a child, and even more so after having several children, the area of the uterus is larger. That means when a woman sheds the lining of her uterus each month, there’s a larger area to shed, and this alone can mean more bleeding for mom.
However, there can be other causes for excessive bleeding. Polyps, fibroids, and other ailments also cause an increase in blood loss, so mom shouldn’t take any chances. If she is soaking several pads a day and worried at the drastic increase in blood, she needs to call her OB.
A woman who bleeds heavily would also be wise to ask her doctor to test her for anemia.
9 Irregular Periods
The phrase “regular period” is a bit of an oxymoron. What is regular? Ask 100 different women and it’s possible to receive 100 different answers. Every woman’s body is unique, and her cycle is as well.
However, for comparative purposes, most people believe a woman’s period should come about every 28 days, with her ovulation starting around 14 days before that. Some women may find they are around 26 days, others closer to 30, but something in this range is considered normal.
After a child is born, normal in the land of periods can be a far off destination that is unreachable. Women may have their first period while breastfeeding the first six months after birth and then not have another one for a year. Mom may skip a period the entire 18 months she breastfeeds and then start having one every month 21 days apart.
Whenever a pattern seems to emerge, many women find it disappears just as fast.
Hormones are to blame, and it’s easy to see why. Hormones fluctuate during pregnancy and then again while mom nurses. If mom’s thyroid starts to suffer, which happens to many women postpartum, then her hormones will fluctuate further since the thyroid controls endocrine function.
Basically, it may be a while before a “regular period” emerges in a cycle that can be charted on the calendar.
8 Momentary Improvement
For the woman who suffered debilitating pain during periods due to endometriosis, pregnancy may have felt like bliss. Though endometriosis can reduce a woman’s chances of conceiving, if she finally can conceive the pregnancy and breastfeeding stage can offer a blissful break from cramping.
In fact, women with endometriosis may reap the benefits of pregnancy well into the breastfeeding months since ovulation is suppressed. Ovulation can aggravate the symptoms of endometriosis, so the lack of it is wonderful!
Moms who receive this wonderful time without cramping need to enjoy it, but they also need to be aware of some hard truths about endometriosis. Though pregnancy and nursing can put endometriosis into a temporary remission, it can come back when this grace period ends.
When mom starts ovulating and having a period again, her endometrial lining may very well go other places in her body instead of leaving through her period like it’s supposed to. Mom may have months where the lining that has attached in the wrong parts doesn’t cause her too much pain, but eventually full-on endometriosis symptoms usually reoccur.
For the mom who is concerned about her endometriosis coming back, she should talk to her doctor right after birth about a plan to keep endometriosis at bay if possible.
7 Longer Periods
Remember those nice four or five day periods we had prior to children? Yeah, we don’t either. It’s been way too long, right?
Moms usually find periods after childbirth are a slightly longer affair. Though there is no definitive reason why, hormones probably play a role. There is all the issue of a wider area in the uterus after the birth of children that causes more blood to need to escape. More blood may equal more time to expel it, and that could be a cause for longer periods.
Some lucky ladies report shorter periods, and we are truly happy for them. There is also no definitive reason for this happening to some women and not others, but it does occur.
If a woman is bleeding longer than she used to, she may need to be tested for anemia to make sure her body is holding up to all of the blood loss. A doctor can perform a blood test, and results are usually back within a week. If mom is anemic, or even if she is borderline, iron supplements may be needed.
6 Worse Cramping
Another mystery surrounding the return of the period is the cramping. Women who have carried a child for nine months and then either pushed that child out their lady bits or had a major abdominal surgery to remove the baby are not wimps. They know cramps. They are intimately familiar with pain. Still, many of these women complain of being knocked to their knees when post-baby menstrual cramps arrive.
Why? The woman’s body remains an enigma, so no one really knows. Developing endometriosis, polyps, cysts, or fibroids can cause cramping. In fact, women need to see their doctor to rule out these possibilities if their cramping stays intense.
In the meantime, heating pads and hot baths are amazing. Some women claim acupuncture and massage are helpful as well. Plus, there’s pain relievers to give mom a temporary break while trying to raise a child and survive her period.
5 Sensitive Breasts
Again, moms who have been through pregnancy know breast sensitivity. The first trimester is a hard time for the boobs because they are sore to the touch. When milk comes in, they hurt even worse and feel engorged. Breasts don’t get off easy while carrying or feeding a child.
They also don’t tend to get much of a break when the period comes back either. Hormones, as usual, are to blame, and since hormones take their sweet time regulating after mom has had a child, the fluctuation may be so extreme that it causes immense pain for mom.
Estrogen, an important reproductive hormone, is responsible for enlarging breast ducts during PMS. Estrogen’s partner in crime, progesterone, makes the milk glands swell. Combine these two and there’s the reason for sore boobs prior to the start of a period.
Add in the fact that estrogen and progesterone may not be functioning at their best postpartum and PMS can be a roller coaster ride for the breasts and the poor mom who has to feel their pain.
4 Slow Return To Normal
Normal is a bit of a relative term in everyday life, and after a child is born, it’s an even more abstract concept. However, when it comes to postpartum periods, mom can expect to slowly make her way to normal.
Though postpartum periods will likely not return to the same routine and rhythm as pre-baby periods, they will eventually find a pattern, and mom will be able to figure it out. Cramping may lessen but still be worse than before baby. Mom may bleed longer but still be able to function. Passing clots and intensified PMS may become the norm, but mom will figure out how to manage both.
This is not meant to be a discouraging message. Moms’ bodies change constantly, and women still have menopause to look forward to in case having a child and relearning what menstruation means wasn’t enough. However, women are extremely good at adapting, and mom will find her groove with her new period cycle soon enough.
3 Milk Supply Down
For months mom may have found herself to be the most amazing milk producer on the planet. Low milk supply? Not a problem. She is rocking the nursing thing with milk to spare.
However, periods can change that. Blame hormones, again. The hormonal changes that occur when a period starts can decrease mom’s supply and leave the milk with a different taste that baby may not be used to. While some moms and babies don’t notice this change, others do and it can throw a kink in the nursing plan.
Mom doesn’t need to stop nursing just because her period starts. However, she may find her child more willing to wean. If a child can’t get full on the milk provided or if the new taste bothers him, he may choose to nurse less or quit altogether.
However, for most children this isn’t the case. They grow used to the new setup and are open to the changes that occur each month. It may take some time, but many children keep nursing even when mom’s period returns.
2 Exhaustion Intensified
Moms know tired. They understand exhaustion since babies don’t really value sleeping through the night and treat mom like an all-you-can-eat buffet that is open around the clock. It’s hard for mom to imagine being any more tired than she was those first few months after birth.
However, the return of Aunt Flo can decrease mom’s energy even more. One major symptom of PMS is fatigue, and this happens due to hormonal changes. When tired mom is hit with fatigue from PMS, it’s enough to bring her to tears.
Women may not remember being this exhausted when suffering from PMS before the baby arrived. Truth is, they probably weren’t. Parenting is a rewarding but exhausting job, and any hormone fluctuations that zap mom of her normal energy supply can feel debilitating.
Practicing self-care is necessary to survive. Mom should eat right, sleep as much as baby allows, and exercise. Drinking water and being a part of a community can also help lift energy levels. Also, ask for help.
1 Stop And Start
When a woman imagines a period lasting for five to seven days, she thinks those days will be consecutive. Pre-baby, they usually are. Post-baby can be a different story.
This is an issue that can correct itself after a few months, but it may not. Mom may find she starts her period like normal but stops bleeding after a couple of days. She may assume she lucked out and had a short period month, but a couple of days later her period starts again.
This is annoying and can be blamed on hormones, but it is generally harmless. Mom will need to make sure to have pads or tampons handy until she figures out her body’s pattern. She should also talk to her doctor if this abnormal symptom is bothering her.
Birth control pills can usually restore some predictability to mom’s flow, and these stops and starts may cease once mom is on them.