The return of AUNT FLO
Your regular (often unwelcome) monthly visitor will eventually return after you have had your baby. Here is what you need to know for that first period after baby
One of the upsides of pregnancy is that you don’t have a period for nine months. An added bonus for breastfeeding moms is even more time without a visit from Aunt Flo. But she does, eventually, make her return.
When quizzed about post-pregnancy periods, medical professionals are hesitant to give hard and fast rules, purely because each women’s body is so unique. “No two women will have exactly the same postbirth experience when it comes to periods. The only thing that is for certain is that postpartum periods are completely unpredictable,” says Dr Peter Koll, gynaecologist and obstetrician at Sandton Mediclinic. “There are so many scenarios that are all normal. As long as it is not a nuisance or dramatically impacts your quality of life, then do not stress.” If you are concerned though, you should consult your doctor.
BLEEDING AFTER THE BIRTH
Directly after your delivery – even in the traumatic event of a stillbirth – you will experience a much heavier period than normal, called lochia (the lining of the womb). “Bleeding starts out bright red then becomes dark red, then brown and eventually turns a khaki colour. It can continue until six weeks,” explains Dr
Every woman is different. If you are concerned about bleeding or your period, follow your gut and consult your gynaecologist or midwife
POSTPARTUM PERIODS ARE COMPLETELY UNPREDICTABLE
Koll. “Women who have had a c-section might experience slightly less post-birth bleeding because the uterus is cleaned out with a swab after the procedure.” Blood clots should only appear for around 48 hours after birth, so if you still notice clots thereafter, speak to your doctor.
During this time, only maternity or sanitary pads are recommended. Stay away from tampons that can block the blood flow and possibly lead to a growth of bacteria and ultimately an infection. Tampons only get the nod once you have your first real period again – the period you get for the first time after this lochia. Thicker, more protective maternity pads should do the trick. Change these often to stay fresh. If your discharge is not heavy, normal sanitary pads could also do. Some women experience bleeding for up to six weeks after birth. The discharge will have an odour, but a really offensive one is cause for concern and should be checked out, warns Dr Koll.
WHEN WILL YOUR NORMAL PERIOD RETURN?
A general rule is: the longer baby spends on the breast, the longer your period will take to return. If your baby is on a combination of expressed bottle and breast feeds, your first period can return five to six weeks after birth. Exclusive breastfeeding could mean that your first red letter day will only return once you have completely weaned your baby, which is your body’s way of preventing you from falling pregnant while you have a very tiny baby.
No matter what various online forums and well meaning women will tell you, breastfeeding is not a sufficient contraceptive, simply because you can still ovulate two weeks before having a period. Ovulation and menstruation does not always take place together. You could have the one without the other. You can continue breastfeeding even when your period starts again. If, once you have stopped breastfeeding, your period has not started again within eight weeks, contact your doctor.
While few women exalt its return, some good news is that many women experience less painful periods after having a child. Dr Koll attributes this to less pelvic congestion following birth.