The Postpartum Period: What No One Wants to Talk About

The Postpartum Period: What No One Wants to Talk About

When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to get rid of my heavy belly, back-ache, and maternity clothes and to be able to enjoy countless lattes and a glass of full-bodied wine on a Friday night. The only part of pregnancy that I didn’t mind was not having my period every month. Nine months without one were wonderful. But when it did return, things were a little different than before.



The period returns at different times largely dependent on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding produces a hormone that suppresses ovulation and delays periods. Since I was breastfeeding, my period returned a month after I stopped, which seems to be pretty common. Breastfeeding moms tend to get their period back six months after birth or when the baby begins weaning. Non-breastfeeding moms usually get their period 6-8 weeks after birth.


Though I started having my period after I stopped breastfeeding, it wasn’t particularly regular after that. I would have one cycle at 28 days, then one at 35, and then another at 45 days. Though I worried about it at the time, I soon learned that this was not uncommon. My partner and I struggled to conceive and I finally became pregnant through IVF after taking many hormone shots. This treatment made it more difficult for my body to adjust after birth. Taking oral contraceptives before pregnancy can have a similar effect. Breastfeeding also affects the hormones and can make the periods irregular to begin with.


I was also bleeding heavily in the first few weeks after childbirth. This bleeding was accompanied with heavy cramping. This was not a regular period, but the process of my uterus returning to its normal size after pregnancy. I found that thin overnight pads worked well for this bleeding given that I was instructed not to use tampons while my vaginal tears were healing and I found other pads to be too bulky and painful against the tears. I was told not to worry about this bleeding as long as I didn’t need to change my pad more often than every hour and I wasn’t passing large clots.


While there is no such thing as a “normal” post-pregnancy period, I learned that there were certain things to watch for:

  • If you have periods lasting longer than seven days or contain clots larger than a quarter.
  • If you miss a period once your periods have become routine.
  • If you experience spotting between periods.
  • If your period has not returned within three months after childbirth (when not breastfeeding) or three months after you stop breastfeeding.

These symptoms can be a sign of more serious complications like anemia, fibroids, or a thyroid problem, so it’s always best to contact a doctor.


Life after pregnancy will never be the same “normal” as it was before. For the most part, this is fine. This new life will have its challenges and delights. I tried to learn to embrace them both.


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