by Jessica Martin-Weber
Sorry for the Buzzfeed style title. It’s that time of the month and there wasn’t enough chocolate to get me through writing this and coming up with a clear yet titillating title too.
The last 5 days we’ve been bleeding our hearts out on The Leaky Boob, Beyond Moi, A Girl With A View, and a little bit with What Love Tastes Like, opening up and sharing all about periods. Free bleeding information and experiences, debunking myths and being honest. In that time we’ve learned a lot. Like a girl having her first period (called menarche), there were a few things that surprised us and at times we found ourselves overly-grumpy. But mostly we felt like we were in good company and that commiserating was cathartic.
Also chocolate. Or bacon. Sometimes chips. And wine.
As we all shared the activities of our uteruses together, we started noticing a pattern. Not completely regular but consistent enough to chart and make a prediction:
Most women will be surprised by their first postpartum periods.
Not all and the surprises weren’t always unpleasant in nature but many women had no idea what they experienced was possible. Like, at all. And they thought they were the only one in the world to experience it.
Since we’ve already aired all our period panties to the world, it’s time to shed some of the mystery like a uterine lining. Here it is, our list of surprising possible realities of your first postpartum periods.
- No matter how long your postpartum bleeding lasts (lochia, which is not a period and you can read more about here), it isn’t an indicator of what your postpartum periods will be like.
- It could take months for Aunt Flo to visit after you have had a baby, even over a year and for some it could be two years. Breastfeeding exclusively makes it more likely your favorite auntie won’t be around for a while.
- But it is no guarantee. Because we’re talking hormones and Aunt Flo, there’s only so much you can predict. Don’t be unprepared because you could be one of those that gets it back at 6 weeks postpartum and is like clockwork every month after. Even if you’re breastfeeding and your child never sees another nipple but yours. Yes, even if you’re breastfeeding twins.
- It could take a while to really get going, there could be brown spotting for a few days a month for several months while your body is indecisive. Get your period undies ready.
- OR it could come back with a vengeance with a gush that will feel like a scene from Game Of Thrones playing at the most inopportune moment. You may want to have supplies with you at all times just in case.
- Essentially, there’s no guarantee when you’re going to start riding the crimson tide again after you have a baby.
- There’s also no guarantee that it will be the same as what you had before you had your baby. It could be lighter, shorter, and less uncomfortable. It could be heavier, longer and more painful.* Or any combination. Or different every time.
- The products you used before may still be your favorites. But you may suddenly hate them. Many women find they want to try something new and don’t be surprised if you see disposables as stinky, uncomfortable, and gradually building a mountain of waste that will be around when your children are having children. Which is a disgusting thought, your period supplies slowly rotting in a landfill when your grandkids are being born. And since you’re more comfortable with the weird things your body does (childbirth can do that to a person), the idea of washing cloth pads or to put a cup in it doesn’t seem so crazy any more.
- If you’re breastfeeding, shark week may mean that your nipples protest someone latching on. Nipple sensitivity AND cramps? So not fair but often so real. Thankfully it usually doesn’t last long and chocolate can help.
- Even more annoying, periods and/or ovulation can cause a dip in milk supply if you are breastfeeding. So not only are you annoyed, your hungry baby is too. Most of the time this indicates a magnesium deficiency and supplements may fix this problem (see more here) but only after the most emotional and sensitive time when you have a hungry kid frustrated at your boob. You know what has magnesium? Chocolate.
- Just like a girl may experience irregular periods for about a year, postpartum women may find that it takes their cycles a good year to establish a regular pattern. The upside to this is that it is completely reasonable to always eat chocolate since you never really know.
- Health care providers may not have a clue what’s going on either. They should and many will but some don’t. You may have to educate them.
Be prepared for anything. Postpartum menses seem to like surprises.
*It is important to note that severe or debilitating pain or extremely heavy bleeding is a sign that something is wrong and may need more than chocolate and wine to address. It is well documented that women are more easily dismissed by health care providers about their pain and discomfort when it comes to health concerns. If your concerns are repeatedly brushed off as being normal but you feel something is wrong or your normal life is disrupted, please speak to your health care provider or find another one. Be persistent until you find one that will take your concern seriously. Menstruation is a normal biological part of life for most healthy child-bearing age women, it isn’t a pathology that women just have to deal with on a monthly basis and if it is interrupting your normal activity and lowering your quality of life, something more serious may be going on.
Have you survived mastitis? How did you get through?