Periods after having a baby
Shutterstock/paulaphoto/Person in the picture is a model

Periods after childbirth – What to expect

Radhika gave birth to a baby sometime back and is wondering when will her periods return to normal? She is also curious to know the difference between lochia (vaginal discharge after giving birth) and periods? This article from Love Matters will help answer all her questions about periods after childbirth.

Apart from the joy of growing a life inside of you, pregnancy also brings you glowing skin, lustrous hair and freedom from periods. Once you give birth, your body goes through a different kind of churn of changes – from blues and mood swings to hair fall. One such change is the return of your periods.

Like much of your life after childbirth, your postpartum period will also be somewhat different. Wondering when will your regular periods resume after delivery? What will the pain and blood flow be like? Let’s take a close look at what you can expect from your periods after childbirth:

When can you expect your first period after childbirth? 

How long after childbirth you get your first period after childbirth is influenced largely by your breastfeeding routine. If you aren’t breastfeeding exclusively, you can expect to get your period between six and eight weeks after giving birth. And if you’re, the timeline can vary depending on the flux of hormones in your body. 

‘Exclusive’ is the operative here. This means that your breastmilk is the only food your newborn baby is consuming. No formula feed, cow milk, solids, or even water has been introduced to the child yet. 

Some new mothers don’t get their period till the time they’re breastfeeding exclusively. For others, periods may resume a couple of months later nonetheless. But these may still be erratic and irregular. 

Lochia versus First postpartum period

Irrespective of whether you gave birth vaginally or through a C-section, you will experience some bleeding and discharge afterward. Known as Lochia, this discharge of blood, fluids and tissues is your body’s way of shedding the uterine lining built up during the pregnancy. This discharge, which is dense and bloody in the beginning and becomes light and clearer toward the end, can last up to six weeks. This is also the time when you may get your first period after childbirth.

As a result, a lot of first-time moms find it hard to tell one apart from the other or know for sure that Lochia has stopped and their first postpartum period has begun. Here are some clear differentiators with which you can tell them apart: 

  • Lochia begins as heavy bleeding with possible clots but becomes brownish, clear or pinkish-red over time. The colour of your menstrual discharge will be bright or deep red. 
  • If you stopped bleeding or experiencing any discharge that requires you to wear a pad or panty liner at around 6 weeks, and then experience bleeding again, it is your first postpartum period. 
  • Lochia increases with heightened physical activity or exertion, period bleeding doesn’t. 
  • Lochia and period blood have distinctly different smells. 

Keeping an eye out for these differences can help you ascertain if you’re menstruating again, and preventing any unplanned, unwanted pregnancy once you and your partner become sexually active after childbirth. 

How is the postpartum period different from the usual period? 

After childbirth, your body adjusts to menstruation all over again. This means that your first period – or the first few – won’t be the same as before. Some of the typical changes that you may experience: 

  • Heavier flow with possible blood clots 
  • Increased pain 
  • Irregular period cycle 
  • Irregular blood flow 
  • Increased cramping 

These changes are triggered by fluctuating hormones in the body and an expansion of the uterine cavity that increases the amount of uterine lining that needs to be shed. 

If you suffer from endometriosis, you may experience lighter periods immediately after childbirth. The intensity of pain can also be markedly reduced. However, in most cases, the pain and discomfort become more and more pronounced with time. Similarly, complications such as adenomyosis or thyroid issues can make the bleeding after childbirth excessively heavy. 

Does breastfeeding impact periods after childbirth? 

Yes, breastfeeding definitely impacts periods after childbirth owing to the hormonal changes that the process triggers in the body. Your body needs the hormone prolactin to produce breast milk, which suppresses the reproductive hormones. This prevents ovulation. Without the release of an egg from the ovaries, the uterine lining won’t thicken. When there is no uterine lining to shed, you won’t get your period. 

Can you get pregnant before getting your first period after childbirth? 

Exclusive breastfeeding is also considered natural birth control by many. However, 1 in 100 women can get pregnant every year even when breastfeeding exclusively in the absence of reliable birth control measures. So while breastfeeding can impact the onset of postpartum menstruation, there is no guarantee that it will prevent a pregnancy.  

What are some abnormal signs to watch out for? 

Every woman’s experience of periods after childbirth can be different. The timeline for resumption of menstruation, the level of discomfort and blood flow can vary from person to person. Even so, there are certain clear indicators that your period is not normal. 

Here are a few such symptoms to watch out for: 

  • Sudden and severe pain during the period 
  • Soaking more than one pad an hour 
  • Fever or severe headache 
  • Heavy blood clots 
  • Bleeding for more than a week 
  • Painful urination 
  • Breathlessness or trouble breathing 

Any one or a combination of these symptoms warrants immediate medical attention, as they’re indicative of an infection. Please contact your doctor immediately, if you experience these. 

Postpartum periods are a sign that your body is recovering from childbirth and returning to its pre-pregnancy ways. While the experience may not necessarily be a pleasant one, it does get better with time.

To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed. 

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