Pregnancy brings with it little tokens of love that envelop you in warmth and comfort throughout your nine-month adventure. It blesses your skin with a golden glow, transforms your belly into a decorative medallion and most significantly, it exiles Aunt Flo far away from your fabulous pregnancy parade. The moment you give birth, however, her return is imminent, and you have no option but to welcome her with an open heart.
So much for that postpartum break, eh?
As you gradually return to your baby-less body, your period marks the advent of your pre-pregnancy anatomy. At this point, it is natural to have many questions about its arrival. How soon will it arrive? How heavy will the flow be? How different will it be postpartum? Will breastfeeding delay its onset? All valid questions, and in this guide, we attempt to break each one down.
You can expect to welcome your first postpartum period within a couple of months of your baby’s arrival. Sometimes, breastfeeding can delay the return of your period. This is because prolactin, the hormone that promotes the production of breast milk, can suppress reproductive hormones. Consequently, ovulation is affected, and in turn, menstruation.
It is likely that your first few postpartum periods will be more painful than usual. This pain is reflective of several factors, including the increased intensity of uterine cramping, hormones associated with breastfeeding and the expansion of the uterine cavity after pregnancy (resulting in a greater lining needing to be shed).
In some ways, yes. With the arrival of your period, you may notice that your baby reacts differently to the texture or taste of your milk or that there is an increase or decrease in your supply. Your period is governed by hormonal shifts, which also play a role in creating subtle changes in your breast milk. These changes are usually minor and should not pose challenges while breastfeeding.
Your first postpartum period will present differences that you may notice right away. At this stage, your body is still healing from childbirth and settling into the rhythms of menstruation. In light of these changes, you may experience more severe cramping than usual, tiny blood clots, a heavier flow and possibly, a longer or shorter cycle length. These are all signs that your body is ridding itself of the last remnants of uterine lining that it had been housing all these months. As you move past this cycle and regain your menstrual momentum, you will notice your periods returning to their original flow, frequency and appearance.
There is evidence that breastfeeding suppresses fertility, but it is certainly not an alternative to traditional birth control. If your period makes a comeback, you are no longer shielded against pregnancy, whether you are still breastfeeding or not. Also, remember that your period will be preceded by one ovulatory cycle, so your fertile window opens even before the arrival of your first period.
It can be a while before your body establishes a set menstrual pattern after childbirth. This is because your hormones are still seesawing. At first, your cycles may be erratic. There is no need to be alarmed by this irregularity. You can expect your cycles to stabilise within a few months of childbirth.
As your body adapts to your postpartum way of life, your period will slowly return to its pre-pregnancy form. Take your first period after pregnancy as a gift from your uterus, sending you glimmers of the beautiful nest your baby had created over the last nine months. When you think of it like that, the cramps and pain that come with it, will all seem worth it.
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