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What to Expect Postpartum: Your Period

by Katlyn Joy | April 26, 2015 12:45 PM
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After giving birth, you may be surprised at the changes your body will undergo. Your body will go back to the pre-pregnancy state, or nearly so, but this reversal will take place much faster than nine months.

While pregnant, your vaginal discharge probably went through some changes. It may have become heavy enough to require you wearing sanitary pads by the end of the pregnancy.

After giving birth, your body needs to expel all the blood and tissue of the pregnancy. This will not come out in some neat, quick package as afterbirth. Instead it will likely take weeks before it is done.

Both before and after birth, that heavy discharge is called lochia. After giving birth, the lochia will begin as a bright red discharge. Over time it will fade to pink, and then grow lighter in both color and in quantity.

However, it is not unusual to see blood clots in this discharge. They're typically seen in greater amounts most immediately after birth but they may return after the lochia has become quite light. Should they come back, take it as a sign to slow down and rest more.

Plan on wearing sanitary pads for weeks after coming home from the hospital. Do not use tampons for this bloody discharge, however. You cannot put anything in the vagina until you've been given the green light at your six-week postpartum check up. Yes, that includes sexual activity as well.

If you had a cesarean, you'll see less lochia or bloody discharge than if you had a vaginal birth.

You may feel like you are about to start your period soon after childbirth. You will experience cramping and that cramping can be made more intense by breastfeeding or orgasm. You will also experience cramping if you are given the drug pitocin to help your uterus shrink and prevent hemorrhaging. Your uterus goes from the size of a basketball at birth to the size of a grapefruit after birth. In the weeks following labor, you will have a uterus returned to its normal pear size.

Don't mistake the cramps for menstrual cramps. These cramps are afterpains. Afterpains are often worse with subsequent children, as the body works harder to get your uterus back into shape than it did the first time.

All this blood loss that occurs during and following birth may leave you feeling fatigued. Again, listen to your body and take it easy when your body gives you signals. Your doctor may prescribe vitamins or iron supplements.

If you are formula feeding your infant you may see the return of your period at about 6 to 8 weeks after birth. You shouldn't resume sexual relations until given the OK by your doctor at the postpartum check. You need to discuss contraception at this visit, if you haven't already. One reason, despite popular opinion, is that you can get pregnant before your period returns.

A more widely-believed myth is that breastfeeding is a natural birth control. While breastfeeding exclusively may keep your periods at bay for months, you may still become pregnant before Aunt Flo has made her return. You can breastfeed normally while menstruating; it will not interfere with milk production.

Your first period after having the baby may seem the same as ever, or it may be heavier or lighter than usual. You may have a longer or shorter period than normal. It may be awhile before everything becomes returned to normal.

There are some danger signs that you should be alert to regarding bleeding post-birth. Should any of these occur, contact your doctor immediately.


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