Don't be alarmed -- the first menstrual period you have after giving birth can seem insanely wacky compared to your pre-pregnancy cycles. Here, we answer your questions about common menstrual changes that can occur after having a baby:
I had a healthy baby boy a year ago and my periods still haven't returned. Is something wrong?
A: "It's common for your period to be delayed after pregnancy," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "For some women, menstruation starts up right away. For others, it can take years. I tell my patients to wait it out during breastfeeding plus six months." Nevertheless, if you're concerned, see your doctor, who can discuss the possibility of using a hormonal medication to jump-start menstruation.
How does breastfeeding affect my period?
A: For some women, breastfeeding disrupts ovulatory actions, causing irregular periods. When your body produces milk, your pituitary gland makes more prolactin, a substance which suppresses ovarian function. Some women ovulate regularly regardless of prolactin production, but other women don't ovulate at all. You might even ovulate some months, but not during others. Says Dr. Minkin, "While you breastfeed, you might get your period every three weeks, every six months, or not at all." Don't worry about having a regular period until after you stop breastfeeding.
My first period after my pregnancy was really heavy and painful. Is something wrong?
A: "The golden rule is that the first period you have after childbirth is always weird," says Dr. Minkin. "The good news is they almost always get better from there." Pain and heavy menstrual flow are also extremely common after giving birth, simply because your body isn't accustomed to ovulating and menstruating regularly, so your initial period may be tougher on your system.
Ever since I had a baby, tampons don't feel quite right. Is there anything I can do?
A: Childbirth can cause your cervix to dip down farther than it used to and it may also weaken your vaginal muscles. Both of these scenarios can make tampons feel a little unusual. To solve the problem and strengthen the muscles surrounding your vaginal wall, Dr. Minkin suggests doing kegel exercises. (To do a kegel, simply contract your muscles "down there" as if you were stopping urine flow.) Says Dr. Minkin, "You can never do too many, but ten kegels three times a day is a great goal to shoot for."