Post-pregnancy: what to expect
Although being pregnant is an experience like no other, it can bring a whole range of changes to your body. Most information and conversations tend to centre on your new baby but, in fact, wondering what happens to you immediately after birth, when to expect your period to return and whether it will be different to pre-pregnancy isn’t uncommon.
Research suggests that mums-to-be have many questions regarding changes to their body post-pregnancy. Trying to define what ‘normal’ is after pregnancy can be difficult, as well as knowing what to look out for. With this in mind, join Lil-Lets to explore the realities of regaining your cycle after giving birth.
What happens to my body after giving birth?
The discharge-like substance that consists of tissue and blood that was lining your uterus is called lochia. Once you have given birth, your body will expel this substance. 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.
Immediately after pregnancy, postpartum bleeding is extremely common. 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 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.
The ‘baby blues’
Sometimes for new mums, feeling at odds with their emotions is common even though they think it should be the happiest time of their life. Some signs to look out for include sudden crying, feeling irritable, low mood, anxiety, and restlessness.
In the weeks following childbirth, it is common for women to go through phases of feeling low and mildly depressed. ‘Baby blues’ is a genuine issue for many new mums, and it can be an overwhelming, confusing experience to navigate.
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 which begins shortly after childbirth.
If you feel the ‘baby blues’ is lasting 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.
After being pregnant, will my skin, nails and hair be affected?
Women can experience hair loss from anywhere between three weeks to three months after pregnancy. However, there is no way to predict this or the extent of it. 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.
During your pregnancy, you might experience a considerable amount of growth in your nails that could make them more prone to breakages if they become brittle. 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.
As well as this, ensuring you get plenty of sleep, staying hydrated and dealing with any stresses that may arise, is important. 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.
When will I first get my period again after giving birth?
When it comes to planning the weeks following the arrival of your baby, this is an extremely common query for mums. While there is no exact way of pinpointing when you will start menstruating again, there are some factors which 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.
The return of your period can be impacted by breastfeeding. This is linked to a pause in the production of hormones which control your periods, as hormones that stimulate the production of breast milk 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 they be more painful and heavier?
It’s almost impossible to predict your first post-pregnancy period since everyone’s body works in different ways. 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.
Here are a few things that could happen during your first period after giving birth:
• Irregular cycle lengths
• Stop and start periods
• Small blood clots
Do periods affect breast milk?
Your periods might not run like clockwork immediately after pregnancy, this is an important thing to remember. 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.
Hormones control both our periods and the production of breast milk. 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.
After pregnancy, the amount your uterine lining sheds is more than usual. 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.
After welcoming your new arrival into the world, reading about what to do post-pregnancy can be extremely helpful, it may also be wise to carry around a hospital bag checklist just to make sure you’re always prepared for any unexpected problems such as heavy postpartum bleeding. 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.