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.
WHEN DOES THE PERIOD RETURN?
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.
WILL IT BE THE SAME AS BEFORE?
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.
THE FIRST “PERIOD” AFTER BIRTH
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.
WHEN TO BE CONCERNED
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
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.