Everyone told you that nothing would be the same after you had a baby. Turns out, they were talking about your period too.
"Following birth, your body is going through a lot of changes — your uterus is shrinking, your hormone levels are tapering off and your period is getting ready to make a comeback," says Heather Smith, MD, an ob-gyn at Montefiore Health System. "Periods are different at different times in a woman's life, and this is one of those times when there can be some changes." Great, so you need to decipher if you'll still need super tampons while trying to figure out what absorbency diaper to snag? Cool.
While it is true that shit may be all over the place for a bit when it comes to your cycle, things will get back into a flow. Here's what you can expect over the next few months.
There will be blood but it's not your period — yet. "As your uterus heals, it continues to bleed a little bit from where the placenta was attached," Smith says. (Sorry for the visual.) "At first, the bleeding may seem like a period, but it should quickly improve over the first week."
Another time you may see red that isn't actually a period? "If you're lying down for a while, it's normal to have a large gush or pass a clot when you first stand up," Smith says. "It's just blood that has been collecting in the vagina as your body continues to heal." Sporadic spotting is pretty common over those first six weeks, but if it lasts beyond that, or seems to be getting worse, you should call your doctor, Smith recommends.
And you're not going to want to skip this part: Just because you aren't getting a period, you can still get pregnant. Yes, seriously. So even though most doctors don't recommend having sex for six weeks post-delivery, if you are, do it safely.
If you aren't breastfeeding, chances are Aunt Flo is back in town. "Most regular periods start to occur right around six weeks after delivery," Smith says.
What should you expect? The usual — or maybe not. Your body just went through so many changes (You know, growing a human!), so it's still adjusting. Your first period may be exactly what you're used to, but don't be rattled if it's lighter, heavier, shorter, longer, more painful, or less so. There's no way to tell how your body will react, but it will eventually settle into a rhythm, although it may be permanently different from your period pre-baby.
This is also the time when you may get back on birth control, which can also cause changes with your period, from the frequency to the flow, Smith says. If you're done with babies for a bit and plan to begin a method, talk to your doctor about how it will affect your cycle.
One thing to note: If your periods come back with such a vengeance that you have trouble functioning — crazy painful cramps, a heavy flow where you're changing a pad or tampon every hour — it's worth giving your gyno a ring. It could be the sign of a fibroid, polyp, hormonal imbalance, or after childbirth, your body may be lacking key vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, which helps with cramps.
One of the major players that can keep your period on a post-baby hiatus? Breastfeeding, Smith says. Prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production suppresses ovulation. That can mean you might not see a period for at least six months — and for some women, even longer! When it does make a cameo, expect it to be heavier, crampier, and more erratic for the first few cycles.
If you aren't breastfeeding and you still haven't gotten your period, it may be completely normal. Stress hormones screw with the signal that tell your body it's time to release an egg, and chances are, your miniature roomie is causing a little extra stress. Still, you should give your doc a ring to discuss what could be going on, Smith says.