With the focus being on what can happen to your body during pregnancy, research shows that many mums-to-be will have questions about changes, trying to determine what ‘normal’ means and what things they ought to be looking out for, especially post-birth.
Although being pregnant is an experience like no other, it can bring a whole range of changes to your body. In fact, wondering what happens immediately after birth, when to expect your period to return and whether it will be different to pre-pregnancy isn’t uncommon. So, join Lil-Lets to explore the realities of regaining your cycle after giving birth.
After immediately giving birth, what happens to my body?
After you have given birth to your baby, your body will expel the tissue and blood which was lining your uterus and this discharge-like substance is called lochia. It happens over three stages, the first stage, known as lochia rubra will last between 3-5 days after birth and it tends to be red in colour. The second stage, lochia serosa, describes the discharge from 5-10 days after birth, and it will have become thinner and browner/pinkish in colour. The final stage, lochia alba, will be whitish/creamy yellow in colour and you could notice this for up to 6 weeks following your delivery. Lochia is nothing to worry about and should be odourless but note any changes and tell your health visitor or GP if you are concerned.
Postpartum bleeding is extremely common immediately after pregnancy. Be prepared by packing plenty of maternity pads in your hospital bag. We’d recommend buying at least three to four packs of maternity pads in the lead up to giving birth, with at least two packs for your trip to the hospital. With this in mind, it may also be helpful to jot down a hospital bag checklist so you remember all of the essentials, not just for your baby but yourself too.
Are ‘baby blues’ real?
After pregnancy, it is very common for women to experience low moods or even feel mildly depressed in the week following childbirth. ‘Baby blues’ is a genuine issue for many new mums, and it can be an overwhelming, confusing experience to navigate.
For new mums who feel like they should be in one of the happiest times of their lives, they end up feeling at odds with their own emotions. Some signs to look out for include sudden crying, feeling irritable, low mood, anxiety, and restlessness. Experiencing any or a combination of these feelings is normal and will usually only last for a few days. It is triggered by the sudden change in hormones and chemicals within your body, a process that begins shortly after childbirth.
If you notice the ‘baby blues’ last more than a couple of weeks, then you may be experiencing Postnatal Depression which again is very common. If you do feel this way then it’s always advisable to confide in a friend or family member and talk to your GP or Health Visitor so they can help.
How long after having my baby will I get my period?
This is an extremely common query for mums, especially when it comes to planning for the immediate weeks following your baby’s arrival. While there is no exact way of pinpointing when you will start menstruating again, there are some factors that can influence it. For example, if you choose to bottle feed your baby then you could regain your periods within as little as five to six weeks after giving birth.
Breast feeding can also impact how long it takes for your period to return. This is linked to a pause in the production of hormones that control your periods, as hormones that stimulate the production of breast milk to become active instead. For women who do choose to breastfeed, both during the daytime and at night, your periods could remain absent until you either only breastfeed during the day or stop altogether.
Will my periods be heavier or more painful?
The way that your body works is different from anyone else’s and predicting your first post-pregnancy period is almost impossible. Some women do experience heavier periods after pregnancy. If your period returns while you are still breastfeeding, then you could have an irregular flow as the hormone levels in your body fluctuate. Not experiencing period cramps while pregnant can feel like a well-deserved break for some women and the prospect of them returning isn’t always warmly received! Some women find that their cramps either get better or worse after giving birth. Only you will be able to judge that once they have started again.
Other things that might happen during your first few periods after giving birth include:
- Stop and start periods
- Small blood clots
- Irregular cycle lengths
Will my period have an effect on my breast milk?
It’s important to note that your periods might not run like clockwork straight away. After a nine month pause, your body can require some time to level out the fluctuating internal hormone balance. It is very normal to have a cycle then skip another, or your period could happen more regularly than you would expect.
Our periods and the production of breast milk are both controlled by hormones. So, when your period returns, its hormones can affect your breast milk production. If you get your period back while you are breastfeeding, you might be able to notice this difference yourself, or you will be able to see it in the way that your baby reacts to your breast milk. Whether you produce less milk, or you notice a change in the frequency of feeds your baby wants, the changes shouldn’t prevent you from nursing your baby as usual.
The amount of uterine lining that will shed is higher than usual after a pregnancy. This means that some women do experience a heavier flow than they are used to but this is normal and typically settles down after you have gone through your cycle a couple of times.
Will my skin, nails and hair be affected post-pregnancy?
Anywhere from three weeks to three months after delivery, women could experience hair loss but there’s no way to predict the extent of this. An average person will lose anywhere in the region of 100 hairs a day but when a woman is pregnant her hormones limit the extent at which this happens. When you have given birth, your hormone levels will fluctuate and this is what causes hair loss in some women.
Also, you might experience notable growth in your nails during pregnancy, which can lead to brittle nails that are more prone to breakages. As your hormones balance out after giving birth, you could keep taking any prenatal vitamins that you might have used during your maternity to help your body to regain its balance.
Alongside this, it is important to keep hydrated, get plenty of rest each night and combat any stresses if/when they arise. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also help to maintain your skin, nails and hair. Make sure you are getting plenty of lean protein, fibre and minerals from fruit and vegetables.
Reading about and preparing for the immediate weeks after welcoming your new arrival into the world can be really helpful. Try not to worry over what is or isn’t normal – and if you are worried about anything, don’t hesitate to contact your health visitor or GP.