We've talked about the overly girly things here before. Yet, I feel inclined to put out a disclaimer in case the title isn't obvious enough, that this post is about periods! Specifically, periods after birth.
I was so excited and proud to start bleeding again after I had Phoenix. I had my first postpartum cycle on International Women's Day, which seemed pretty perfect. Since becoming pregnant again, I haven't thought much about the periods I had between babies. My youngest sister reached out to me to ask about it though, so I thought I'd share a bit of my experience. Of course, none of us are the same. Hopefully, this will shed some light if you're curious or wondering what to expect yourself.
1. Do A little Research
- It can take up to a year for a period to return after giving birth (source). Mine took 6 months.
- Typically a menstrual cycle will return to whatever was "normal" for a woman before pregnancy (source). In my case, my periods were slightly heavier and lasted longer after birth. My cycle also lengthened by a day or two and was slightly less regular. I always had 28 day cycles that ran like clockwork before my pregnancy with Phoenix.
- Due to the stretching of the uterus, dilation of the cervix, and clearing of afterbirth, some women may notice less pain and easier periods after giving birth. This can be the case if endometriosis was/is a factor (source). I did not have endometriosis.
- Breastfeeding can affect when a period returns. Typically, nursing delays the return (source).
- A woman can ovulate before her first period after birth (source).
2. Note or Journal Personal Experience
- I noted each of my periods in my phone calendar so I could see how regular I was. I also noted how long they lasted and how heavy/painful they were.
- I had my first postpartum period in Mach 2017 and we stopped preventing pregnancy in November. I had 11 periods between babies.
- I noted that ovulation was different too, once we weren't preventing. It took 3 months to get pregnant. I believe this had something to do with my fertile days being right before ovulation instead of during/right after. TMI WARNING!!! I could always tell when I was ovulating just by the consistency of my mucus. I don't remember if I could tell that easily before I was pregnant with Phoenix, but I definitely could tell after having him.
3. Check in Emotionally
Again, I journaled about this, and discussed it with the women in my life. With my postpartum menstrual cycles, I did not experience the same emotional/energetic tempo that I have come to rely on and appreciate since reading Moon Time. During my first pregnancy and postpartum, I felt so unpredictable in my moods and emotions. It took awhile to find a baseline and trust myself. When I felt anything strongly, I had to take a step back and ask myself if it was hormones or intuition or rationale. I'm not used to doing this when I'm menstruating normally because I always know where I am in my cycle, and my energy and emotions are fairly cyclical and predictable. Like I said, I didn't get that rhythm back during my periods between babies. It's possible it just takes more time than I had.
4. Recognize What's Changed
- I feel different about sanitary items! I did not find a sanitary product I liked after giving birth. Tampons were a psychological struggle after pushing a baby out for some reason. I still used them, but I really wanted to find a comfortable pad. I tried a few, and all of them felt like sticky, itchy diapers. Just being honest. I do feel pretty strongly that if I use tampons again in the future, I want them to be organic cotton with no chemicals for sure. Just personal preference. I'm also considering cloth pads that I can wash and reuse, and something like the Diva Cup. I'm so glad we have options, and that I won't have to think about it for awhile.
- I felt more independent and like myself once I started bleeding again. It was a place of autonomy away from my boys.
- I needed less support than I used to. Periods used to be a big deal for me, a time when I needed a lot of help from Mitch with house work, cooking, and general adulting. Now it feels more manageable.
My main method with postpartum recovery in general, which included nursing, sleep training, healing, and navigating intimacy with Mitch among other things, was just to stay present with it. Gather information as I could, let my experience be what it was going to be, and allow things to be different now. Hope this helped any of you who are anticipating a return of your cycle. If you've already been through this and have any tips or suggestions, please share!