When it comes to menstruation after childbirth, there is no normal. Each woman’s body is different, and so is her experience. Will your periods just resume to the way they were before you got pregnant or will you face new challenges? There is no definite answer. What is definite is that all women experience some amount of postpartum bleeding after delivery. However, it cannot be said for sure when their regular periods will return. If you want to know more about menstruating while breastfeeding, continue reading.
Most women experience bleeding immediately after childbirth. This is called postpartum bleeding or lochia.
- Lochia is the inner lining of the uterus shedding and passing out of the vagina. This vaginal discharge contains blood, mucus, and uterine tissue.
- It starts off as heavier and darker bleeding than the periods you had before childbirth.
- After a week or so of heavy bleeding, it fades to a lighter or colourless, strong odor discharge.
- Lochia could last for 4-6 weeks and eventually fades.
- You might not bleed for the remaining of breastfeeding period if you are exclusively breastfeeding. Mothers who are bottle-feeding will, however, start menstruating sooner than the ones who are exclusively breastfeeding.
- You should never use tampons or menstrual cups for postpartum bleeding; only use sanitary pads. Using internal sanitary products before your internal uterine lining has stopped shedding could introduce bacteria and increase your chances of getting an infection.
- Consult your doctor at your six-week postnatal check before using any internal sanitary products.
Also Read: 11 Superfoods You Should have while Breastfeeding
Resuming of regular menstrual cycle:
- Menstruation is linked to ovulation. While you are breastfeeding your baby, the sucking action of the baby releases the hormone prolactin. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, the high levels of prolactin in your body will prevent ovulation, and menstruation.
- There is no accurate estimation of when menstruation will resume. It depends from woman to woman. Ovulation typically resumes when there are longer gaps between feeds or the baby is feeding less frequently. This resumption of ovulation could be because of a number of factors including:
- You are supplementing breast milk with formula feed.
- Baby has started solid food and has stopped breastfeeding exclusively.
- Your baby is sleeping for longer hours at a stretch during the day or night.
- Your baby uses a dummy or pacifier.
- For some women, ovulation only resumes when you have stopped breastfeeding completely.
- Once menstruation resumes, you should consider yourself fertile, irrespective of whether you are still breastfeeding or not.
What to expect when menstruating while breastfeeding?
- Some women experience nipple tenderness at the time of ovulation.
- Some women report a slightly lower milk supply on the days they have their periods. This is because calcium levels in the blood decrease during menstruation and this has the potential to affect milk supply. You could consult your doctor and take a calcium and magnesium supplement if you notice a dip in milk supply.
- Some babies may demand more frequent feedings due to the drop in milk supply.
- Some babies may detect a slight change in the taste of the milk just before a period and may nurse less enthusiastically. This is due to hormonal changes and will pass with the ending of your periods.
Also Read: These 8 Indian Kitchen Foods Can Help Breastfeeding Moms
Common myths related to menstruating while breastfeeding
#1. You cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding. MYTH
This myth is responsible for many women falling pregnant again soon after having delivered a baby. If your periods have resumed, even while you are breastfeeding, it means you are fertile again and should take precautions against pregnancy. It is also possible to become pregnant before the first period returns, although quite rare.
#2. Milk can go bad or sour when you start menstruating while breastfeeding. MYTH
There is no correlation between the quality of breastmilk and mensuration. The milk is no less nutritious when you are menstruating than when you are not. Some women might notice a temporary reduction in milk supply or their babies might detect a slight change in the taste of milk while their mothers are menstruating.
This is due to hormonal fluctuations and does not impact the quality of milk. Once the period begins and hormone levels begin to return to normal, the milk supply will boost back up again. Most babies can compensate well for this temporary drop in supply with more frequent nursing.
Also Read: A step by step guide on breastfeeding for new moms
#3. Babies should be weaned after periods resume. MYTH
When new mums start their first regular menstrual cycle (not postpartum bleeding) during the breastfeeding period, many believe that they should stop breastfeeding. This SHOULD NOT be the case, especially if your baby is younger than six months of age. Nursing while menstruating will not affect your milk or your health or that of your baby’s. And, while the quality of the breast milk will remain the same, the quantity may go down for a while. You only need to manage the shortage of breastmilk supply during your periods.
Each mother’s experience is as unique as her body. Do not compare your experience with that of other women or rely on old wives tales. Your doctor is the best person to give you the correct advice and guidance about any concerns you might have about menstruation or breastfeeding keeping your medical history in mind.
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