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

Your Baby & Toddler - - Just for You - BY YOLANDI NORTH

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

RE­MEM­BER

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.

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