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Worried about first period after delivery? What is normal and what is not?

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Congratulations on becoming a new mother! 

A brand-new era of your life is about to start. Needless to say, with a baby in your life, your routine must have turned upside down. However, the birth of a child does not only affect your routine but also your bodily functions. After delivery, your body tries to get back to how it was before pregnancy. Externally, you will notice a change in your size and shape. Internally, your organs will resume their functions to maintain your health, meaning, you can also expect your periods after delivery

In this article, Dr Anjali Kumar, a leading obstetrician at the CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon, discusses all that you should know about your first period after delivery. 

Getting your periods after delivery

During the 9 months of your gestation, there is a break in the process of menstruation. It is a matter of simple biology that while you are hosting a fetus in your womb, you will not have periods. For most women, this gap is welcomed with a sense of relief. Thanks to pregnancy – you don’t have to worry about staining your trousers or deal with premenstrual syndrome for several months. 

Nonetheless, periods after delivery make a comeback and it is, often, unpleasant. You should aware of first menstruation after pregnancy in advance to avoid any additional discomfort.

When will you get your first period after delivery?

Your first period after pregnancy will not come almost instantly. The time period of menstruation post-delivery for every woman is varying. If you are wondering, after delivery when periods will come? The answer lies in the practice of breastfeeding

If you are not breastfeeding your newborn, you can expect your cycle to start in 6-8 weeks. This time can also vary from one woman to another. On the other hand, if you are exclusively breastfeeding (meaning that your child is only feeding on your breastmilk), your periods can delay even more. 

The link between breastfeeding and periods 

The link between varying times of breastfeeding and periods exists entirely because of hormonal function. Prolactin hormone that helps in the production of breast milk can suppress reproductive hormones. Due to this suppression, your body is unable to ovulate and menstruation is halted. 

Getting your period will also affect your breastmilk to some extent. The overlap in hormones affects your breastmilk which can be felt by, both, you and your child. Your period may affect the composition or taste of your milk or there may be a decrease in supply. Every woman experiences some type of change differently. However, as these transitions are temporary, they should not be a cause of concern for the mother. 

The long lag in the resumption of the menstrual cycle can make you wonder – does menstruation occur after pregnancy? But yes, it does. There is no well-defined schedule for when menstruation will happen. However, if you have any concerns or worries, you should address them to your obstetrician. 

What to expect from periods after delivery?

First postpartum periods appear for everyone differently. It is evident that your body has been tremendous changes through the course of pregnancy and would require time to readjust. Coming back to normalcy will be a gradual process. Until then, the natural biological processes will affect your body somewhat uniquely. 

Since your body is again adjusting to the process of menstruation after a lengthy gap, you can expect some changes. Some top changes include:

  • Heavy menstruation after pregnancy 
  • Strong or light abdominal cramping
  • Presence of small blood clots
  • Interrupted flow 
  • Increase in pain 
  • Irregular periods 

The majority of differences in your periods after pregnancy is due to the extra collection of uterine lining that needs to shed. Due to this extra lining, you are likely to experience intense pain and cramping. With time, these symptoms will reduce and your body will get back to normal. 

A variety of health concerns prior to pregnancy can affect your postpartum periods. For instance, if you were suffering from thyroid, you are likely to experience a heavier flow.On the other hand, if you were suffering endometriosis before pregnancy, your first period after pregnancy may be lighter. 

Periods after cesarean delivery 

Your postpartum periods after cesarean delivery are not majorly different from periods after a normal vaginal delivery. You can expect vaginal discharge and heavier bleeding because your body is trying to shed the tissues that were lining your uterus during pregnancy. 

Initially, during postpartum, you can expect to notice heavier flow and clots in your periods. Over time, your flow will become light and provide a way to a creamy white or red colured discharge called lochia. This vaginal discharge, lochia, continues for upto 6 weeks by which time you will get your first period. 

Lochia is a great indicator to identify postpartum period symptoms. You can identify whether you bleeding is associated to periods or if it is related to some other health complication. Lochia has a very distinct odour which cannot be identified as foul. It become lighter in colour and texture, gradually. Pregnancy-related discharge increases with exertion or activity. 

If your postpartum period symptoms do not match the above given description, you should consult your healthcare provider for a checkup. 

Periods after ectopic pregnancy 

An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the fertilised egg implants itself outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are uncommon and may require extensive recovery. 

Periods after ectopic pregnancy may occur anywhere between 2-10 weeks. You can expect your first period after ectopic pregnancy to be more painful. However, the symptoms are usually manageable. 

Which postpartum period symptoms to watch out for?

It is evident that your periods after pregnancy are going to be heavier and painful. However, these symptoms should not aggravate to a level of unbearable discomfort. 

Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Excessive blood flow leading to soaking of sanitary pad every hour
  • Bleeding accompanied by sudden, sharp or severe pains
  • Sudden fever with no obvious source or apparent cause
  • Persistent bleeding that lasts for more than a week
  • Passing clots of blood that are larger than a golf ball
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Severe headache 
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Painful urination 

Apart from these symptoms, if your periods have been absent for more than three months after you have stopped breastfeeding or if you notice that your menstruation is relatively scarce, you should talk to your doctor immediately.

How long do first periods after delivery last?

Most women return to their normal cycle soon after giving birth. If your period was ‘normal’ prior to pregnancy, it will occur every 21 to 35 days post pregnancy, while the bleeding may last anywhere between 2 to 7 days.

However, ‘normal’ here may also relate to what you were experiencing before your pregnancy. If you have a history of painful periods or endometriosis, for example, you will likely continue to have painful periods over time.

The concluding note 

In the weeks after birth, your body is still as fragile as it was during pregnancy. While you may be eager to return to your regular routine quickly, you must take things slow.

Avoid heavy lifting or doing any strenuous exercise. Most importantly, follow all your doctor’s instructions for recovery and ensure that you go for your postnatal checkups regularly. A comprehensive postpartum checkup should be done within 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth.

By learning about periods after delivery or postpartum health, you can prepare in advance and cope with the symptoms in a better way. 

For more information, consult Dr Anjali Kumar, a leading obstetericin and gynaecologist at the CK Birla Hospital.

FAQs

Do periods start immediately after delivery?

You can expect your periods to start within 6 weeks of delivery. However, the time may vary since every woman is different. 

Can I get pregnant after delivery without period?

Yes, you can get pregnant again before getting your first period after previous pregnancy if you ovulate timely. However, you will not be fertile immediately after delivery. 

Do periods hurt more after C section?

You are likely to experience heavy and painful periods irrespective of normal delivery or C-section. 

Will my period affect my breast milk?

Yes, you may expect a decrease in breastmilk supply when you get your first period post pregnancy.