Go With The Flow

Understanding Postpartum Periods: What to Expect After Birth

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Pregnancy lasts for about 280 days, or 40 weeks, or a little more than 9 months. That’s long enough for you to forget what a period even feels like. But don’t you worry, soon your first period postpartum will snoop in to remind you what it was like – possibly with a vengeance…

With almost a year-long hiatus and with all the excitement and delirium leading up to labor, delivery and the baby after, it’s common to have loads of pressing questions about your first period postpartum: When will it return? When should I start worrying if it doesn’t return? Does it have any added symptoms than my regular periods? Actually, what even will it look and feel like to have one after one whole year!?

Luckily, here’s everything you need to know about postnatal periods compiled in one blog!

(Oh, and congratulations on becoming a mom! 🎉)

(You don’t have your baby in your arms yet? Advanced congratulations on becoming a mom! 🎉)

POSTPARTUM PERIODS

Just to be clear, the immediate bleeding after delivery isn’t your periods!

Whether you give birth vaginally or through C-section, you will experience a significant amount of bleeding in the first few days and weeks after delivery. Known as Lochia, this postnatal vaginal bleeding that will feel like one long period, is not actually your period.

Lochia is made up of blood, mucus, discharge, and occasionally blood clots, and can last up to 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. It’s your uterus shedding the inner lining that was built up during pregnancy and restoring itself to its original state pre-pregnancy.

During this period, lochia can ebb and flow (pun intended). It starts out bright or dark red with some blood clots, progresses to pink with no clots, and finally becomes yellowish-white in color. You can also expect cramps, like the ones from your regular periods, as your uterus is contracting and returning to its original size.

Do not use tampons to deal with lochia though, you might hurt yourself, at least not until your six-week check-up after childbirth. Instead, opt for maternity pads made by Friends Adult Diapers. Moving on!

When your periods return will mainly depend on breastfeeding

You can expect your periods to make a comeback after your lochia ends, which is almost 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. However, if you’re breastfeeding, your periods won’t return for a year or more depending on how long you breastfeed. This is because breastfeeding produces a hormone called prolactin, which delays the hormonal process of ovulation (put bluntly, your body doesn’t want you to carry another child when you’re literally nursing one)

No ma’am, breastfeeding isn’t a form of birth control

While the chance of pregnancy while you breastfeed is really slim because the process of ovulation is on temporary leave on the command of prolactin, it’s still only slim and not non-existent. So, don’t rely on breastfeeding as a form of birth control; practice safe sex.

Expect your first period after delivery to be… not what it was before

Menstruation after delivery can be really unpredictable. Typically, your period will look and feel different than what it was pre-pregnancy.

Postpartum period duration? It could be longer, shorter, or just your good ol’ buddy you grew old with.

Postpartum period flow? heavier, lighter, or just the periods you always knew.

Your body, uterus, and your menstrual cycle after delivery are still going through changes and trying their best to reach their normal, or their new normal; so be patient with yourself. You can also expect yourself to skip some more periods after your first period postpartum.

But these irregularities in your menstrual cycle and periods won’t last forever. Generally, they should return to normal within a few months, and at most, within a year. If your periods are still irregular after a year, time to visit your ob-gyn.

But if you had irregular periods even before pregnancy to begin with, it’s likely that your postpartum periods will also be irregular until you identify and treat the underlying cause of your menstrual irregularities.

The window for “normal” period irregularities is large, but these below are red flags

Heavy bleeding

Bleeding so much that you soak through a heavy pad every two to three hours… is normal. Nothing to worry about there, things will ease in a few months. But if:

  • you’re soaking through a pad in an hour,
  • the discharge is green or weird or has a foul odor,
  • the bleeding is accompanied by really bad cramps and pain,
  • the flow seems to have increased or isn’t showing any signs of fading,

then it is a cause of concern and is worth a call to your doctor.

Large blood clots

Passing blood clots is also normal, but if the blood clot is the size of a walnut, it could be a cause of concern.

Fever and dizziness

If you feel any fever, chills, dizziness, or nausea anytime during your periods and postpartum recovery, call your doctor as soon as possible and get their opinion. This could be a sign of anemia or some other serious underlying condition.

In conclusion, the journey of pregnancy and childbirth is not easy, and the process of your body returning to normal is a gradual one. Remember to be patient with yourself, and just keep track of the red flags when your periods return. Congratulations (or advanced congratulations) on becoming a mom! Got more questions for us? Shoot them in the comments!

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