Your First Postpartum Period: What to Expect

There are many things to love about pregnancy. Another is that you’ll have at least nine months of freedom from your period. But after you deliver, you’re probably curious about what will happen with your menstrual cycle. After its months-long hiatus, your postpartum period might return with a vengeance—or a whisper—and stay that way for years.

When your period returns often depend on whether or not you breastfeed. And just like your life after baby, you might find your periods after pregnancy is somewhat different.

When will my period return?

There are several factors that affect the return of your menstrual cycle, but most women will experience their first period between six to eight weeks after childbirth if you are not breastfeeding Approximately 80% of non-nursing mothers will have their period by the time they are 10 weeks postpartum. Those who practice exclusive breastfeeding might not have a period the entire time they breastfeed. “Exclusive breastfeeding” means that your baby is receiving only your breast milk. But for others, it might return after a couple of months, whether they’re breastfeeding or not.

If this is not your first pregnancy, keep in mind that every pregnancy is different. Even if your period returned exactly six weeks after the birth of your first child, this does not mean your menstrual cycle will return at the same point with your second pregnancy.

If your period does return quickly after giving birth and you had a vaginal delivery, your doctor might recommend that you avoid using tampons during your first menstruation post-baby. This is because your body is still healing, and tampons could potentially cause trauma. Ask your doctor if you can return to using tampons at your six-week postpartum checkup.

Breastfeeding and Your Menstrual Cycle

Typically, women who are breastfeeding don’t get their periods as quickly because of the body’s hormones. Prolactin, the hormone needed to produce breast milk, can suppress reproductive hormones. As a result, you don’t ovulate or release an egg for fertilization. Without this process, you most likely won’t menstruate.

In most cases, the rule of thumb is that it’s perfectly normal to wait up until six months after you’re finished breastfeeding for your menstrual cycle to return. If you haven’t gotten your first period at this time, your doctor may prescribe a medication to jump start menstruation and ovulation.

First Period after Pregnancy

Your first period after pregnancy is likely to be more painful than what you remember. Part of this is due to the hormonal changes in your body from pregnancy and part of it is just due to the fact you haven’t been menstruating for quite some time. Your cycle will likely return to a more normal rhythm within a few months, although you should feel free to contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned. Occasional spotting within the first three to six months after your menstrual cycle returns is normal and does not indicate a problem.

Women who had endometriosis before pregnancy might actually have lighter periods after giving birth. Light periods can also be caused by two rare conditions, Asherman syndrome and Sheehan syndrome. Asherman syndrome leads to scar tissue in the uterus. Sheehan syndrome is caused by damage to your pituitary gland, which may be the result of severe blood loss.

Another problem that women often have after pregnancy is adjusting to the use of tampons.  This is because your body is still healing, and tampons could potentially cause trauma. Ask your doctor if you can return to using tampons at your six-week postpartum checkup.

What postpartum symptoms should I watch out for?

It’s important that you call a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • soaking through more than one pad every hour
  • bleeding that’s accompanied by sudden and severe pain
  • a sudden fever                                                                                                           
  • bleeding continuously for more than seven days
  • Blood clots that are bigger than a softball
  • foul-smelling discharge
  • A severe headache                                                    
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain while urinating                            

A return to your menstrual cycle is just one of the parts of recovery and returning to your pre-pregnancy body. In some, menstruation may be delayed due to the hormone increases associated with breastfeeding.

If anything seems out of the ordinary about your first period after pregnancy, contact your doctor. Excess bleeding or indications of infection are especially concerning for a new parent. Listen to your body and play it safe.

 

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

What You Need To Know About Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD), also called postnatal depression, is a type of mood disorder occurs in women soon after giving birth. It’s common for women to experience the “baby blues”, extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns, following their baby’s birth. But some women, up to 1 in 7, experience a much more serious mood disorder.

 

The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.

 

But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.

Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.

Here’s what you need to know about this common, yet entirely treatable, condition.

When does it occur?

Your recovering body may be vulnerable to certain infections after you have a baby. Some postpartum infections actually begin brewing during labor, though they often don’t become apparent for days – or even weeks – after delivery. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth but may begin later — up to six months after birth.

What does it feel like?

There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.

  • Physical changes. After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in your body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply — which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.
  • Emotional issues. When you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.

Who’s at risk?

Women with a personal or family history of depression or mood or anxiety disorders are more likely to develop PPD, as are those who experience significant mood-related changes related to their menstrual cycles. But perhaps the biggest risk factor is having had PPD with a previous pregnancy—especially if it was untreated.

When to see a doctor

If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But if you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. If you have symptoms that suggest you may have postpartum psychosis, get help immediately.

How is it treated?

Treatment and recovery time varies, depending on the severity of your depression and your individual needs. If you have an underactive thyroid or an underlying illness, your doctor may treat those conditions or refer you to the appropriate specialist. Your doctor also may refer you to a mental health provider.

 

Postpartum depression is often treated with psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or mental health counseling), medication or both.

 

  • Psychotherapy. It may help to talk through your concerns with a psychiatrist, psychologist or another mental health provider. Through therapy, you can find better ways to cope with your feelings, solve problems, set realistic goals and respond to situations in a positive way. Sometimes family or relationship therapy also helps.
  • Antidepressants. Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant. If you’re breastfeeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk. However, some antidepressants can be used during breastfeeding with little risk of side effects for your baby. Work with your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits of specific antidepressants.

With appropriate treatment, postpartum depression usually goes away within six months. In some cases, postpartum depression lasts much longer, becoming a chronic depression. It’s important to continue treatment after you begin to feel better. Stopping treatment too early may lead to a relapse.

Helping a friend or loved one

Treatment for postpartum psychosis can challenge a mother’s ability to breastfeed. Separation from the baby makes breastfeeding difficult, and some medications used to treat postpartum psychosis aren’t recommended for women who are breastfeeding. If you’re experiencing postpartum psychosis, your doctor can help you work through these challenges.

People with depression may not recognize or acknowledge that they’re depressed. They may not be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait and hope for improvement.

 

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.