All About Menstruation During Breastfeeding

Many new mothers are confused and have a million questions about what happens after delivery. Especially about menstruation. If you are a new mom who has begun breastfeeding and if you are experiencing any bleeding or discharge which does not stop, or if you have any doubts about your periods, here are things you need to know. Menstruation while breastfeeding

When Will Your Menstrual Cycle Resume After Delivery?

The one good thing every pregnant woman thinks of is how there will be no uncomfortable menstruation cycle during the nine months. All expecting moms smile and agree with the tint of pleasure this brings them. As relaxing as it is, women also wonder about managing the newborn and monthly periods resuming shortly after your pregnancy. You have questions about unprotected sex and when your periods will begin if they haven’t yet. Remember that your periods will begin any moment after you give birth. If you are breastfeeding, your periods may be delayed and sometimes may take even 7 to 8 months to return after delivery.

There is no particular or standard time frame for your periods to return when you’re breastfeeding. Some women may experience menstruation within the first two months of breastfeeding while for some, it may take longer. All the scenarios are normal and there is nothing to worry about. However, there are some things you should know about your periods while breastfeeding:

  • When you’re breastfeeding, your periods may take a while to resume if your baby doesn’t put a gap between his/her feeds. If your baby sleeps for a longer time at night or if your baby starts to take more time between feeds, this is a sign that your body will soon experience monthly periods.
  • When you start your baby on solid foods, your newborn will gradually divide between breastfeeding and eating solid foods. This another sign that your body is ready for your monthly periods.
  • At times, you may notice spotting even while you’re breastfeeding. It is normal and this does not mean your periods are back. Spottings can be irregular too, there is no need to think that your periods are irregular.
  • If you start your baby on formula or solid feeds after a short period of breastfeeding, you may get your first period post-pregnancy as early as 12 weeks post delivery.

The First Period After Birth While Breastfeeding

Though the time when periods will return after pregnancy varies with each woman, the consistency and the discharge do not vary. Some changes you may experience in your first menstrual cycle after pregnancy when you’re still breastfeeding are:

  • Once you’ve given birth, it is normal to experience some bleeding. This bleeding is called as postpartum bleeding and will fade away eventually. But in some cases, this may be the start of your monthly periods after birth while you’re still at the center.
  • The initial blood loss after you’ve given birth will be dark red in color and the blood flow will be heavier than your normal monthly flow. The usual rule is that one sanitary pad should suffice for a minimum of four hours. However, if you bleed more heavily and notice you need to change pads sooner than this duration, speak to your doctor or midwife about it.
  • When you have your first period after birth, your period may stretch for a week and will be heavier than it was before you gave birth. Once you reach the end of the week, you may notice the flow getting lighter. Additionally, you will see a change in color of the blood too. While it was a dark shade earlier, it will slowly turn paler and may even turn into a light brown color.
  • The color of the discharge too will change over the weeks. You may notice how the color of the discharge changes to a pale yellow or white color. The discharge will no more be bloody and this is called as lochia. A while later, your discharge will completely stop and your period too will stop while you’re still breastfeeding. In most cases, the discharge is accompanied by a strong odor.
  • While in most cases the first period after birth lasts for a week, do not be alarmed if your period extends for more than this duration. In some cases, menstrual periods can extend beyond a week and go on to about six weeks too. However, if you experience too much pain or discomfort, inform your doctor and check if everything is normal.

Tampons Or Sanitary Pads For Your Menstrual Period

The menstrual periods post delivery are heavy and heavy, and many women would prefer the easy way to manage these periods. While tampons are the first go to in this situation, it is best advised for you to use sanitary napkins during this time. Here are a few things you should know before you choose between tampons or sanitary pads.

  • When you use tampons, it will obstruct blood flow and can also lead to the growth of bacteria.
  • Your body will take some time to recover from the birth wounds and the whole procedure. During this time, your body is more prone to various infections and your overall immunity remains low after delivery or surgery.
  • If you catch any bacteria, due to the low immunity levels, the risk of infections and complications are high.
  • Using a sanitary pad instead of a tampon is the best thing to do. Ensure you change the pad once in every four hours or so if the flow is heavy. When you’re breastfeeding in the initial months, the chances of bacteria thriving are high. You may also experience various types of vaginal discharge known as lochia. Thus it is best to be careful and choose sanitary pads over tampons.
  • Sanitary pads can be irritating and not very comfortable. If so, you can switch to maternity pads which are thicker and come with more padding as compared to normal sanitary pads. These maternity pads also keep you dry for a longer period of time.
  • Talk to your midwife or doctor and choose the right option for you. Many hospitals advice new moms on which sanitary pads to choose for the first few times of menstrual cycle while they are breastfeeding.

When Should You Call Your Doctor?

It is a natural reaction when you panic on experiencing menstrual cycle when you’re still breastfeeding. You may even notice a change in color of the blood; blood which is too pink or red or brown. Another change you may notice is how the flow is much heavier than usual. All these changes are common and natural for your body. However, if you do feel anything of out of the blue or feel any pain, do mention it to your doctor. The symptoms you can expect in your first menstrual cycle are listed below:

  • You may experience discharge which is bright red in color and can continue for more than a week.
  • You will notice clots in your discharge. These clots can even be big in the initial days, but if you see any large clots or see them multiple times, it is a sign for you to talk to your doctor about it.
  • The color of your discharge can turn from a bright red to a lighter shade. But if you notice a bright color change once again, it is a cue to consult your doctor.
  • Vaginal discharge comes with a strong odor during this time, but if the smell is foul or stinks, speak to your doctor at once.
  • If you experience any pain or tenderness in your uterus or the surrounding areas, visit your doctor and check for anything abnormal.

Ovulation, Breastfeeding And Menstrual Cycle

It is highly unlikely for you to begin ovulating in the first six weeks after delivery. Therefore, your chances of getting knocked up too are pretty low. Your doctor will schedule you for regular checkups after 6 or 7 weeks post birth. Your doctor and your midwife will then brief you about resuming sex and safe sex practices. Here are some things you have to keep in mind about ovulation, breastfeeding, and periods:

  1. Breastfeeding can stimulate various signals in your body. When your baby sucks on your breasts, the sucking will help release a certain hormone called as prolactin in your body. For as long as you breastfeed your baby, your body will produce prolactin which will help keep your body from ovulating.
  1. It is difficult to estimate when you will begin to ovulate after giving birth. As long as you breastfeed your baby, your body can hold off from ovulating. As long as you continue to breastfeed your baby, your body will hold off from ovulating.  But once your baby starts spacing out his/her feeds and starts on solid foods, your body will slowly begin to ovulate again.
  2. When your menstrual cycle returns, you don’t have to stop breastfeeding. Menstruation does not make your breastmilk sour and neither will it change the taste or feel of your breastmilk. so it perfectly safe to go on breastfeeding your baby even after your periods have resumed.
  1. As mentioned in the previous point, your breastmilk will not be altered by your periods. Your breastmilk is still nutritious and healthy as before. It is important for you to breastfeed your baby for as long as you can and help your little one get all the nutrients s/he requires.
  1. However, one change you may notice after you resume your menstrual cycle is how the production of breastmilk in your body has reduced. You can see your baby gets more hungry or how your breasts get empty sooner than they did before. You may think that your breastmilk production will stop now that your menstrual cycles are back, but this is not true. The decrease in production of milk is temporary and can be seen in the first few days of your menstrual cycle every month. This is caused because of the changes in hormones happening in your body post pregnancy.
  1. Once your menstrual cycle has reached a stable or regular cycle, your hormones too will stabilize. Your breastmilk too will change and you may notice how your breastmilk production has once again spiked up. The days when your body’s production of breastmilk is low, you can make up for it by nursing your baby more frequently and reducing the gaps between feeds.
  2. Also, just before your menstrual cycle begins, your baby may notice a slight change in the taste of your breastmilk and this is normal. Your baby may be reluctant to feed by moving his/her head away from your breasts to show this. Other signs are if your baby is confused or shows any inhibition in feeding, you can know this is because of the change in taste. There is nothing to worry here, this change will not turn your baby off from breastmilk. Your baby will soon get accustomed to the new taste and smell of your breastmilk. Once your baby is comfortable with the change in your breastmilk, s/he will feed just as before. But when you notice this change in your baby, you can be sure that your menstrual cycle will begin any moment. The change in breastmilk is due to the hormonal imbalance in your body.

Ecological Breastfeeding And How It Affects Your Menstrual Cycle

Every woman’s body is different and will react differently to the changes which come after childbirth. However, there are some things that are presumably common in the overall new mothers. If you are big on ecological breastfeeding, it will have effects on your menstrual cycle. But, what is ecological breastfeeding? Read the below points to know more about ecological breastfeeding and how it affects your menstrual cycle.

  1. Ecological breastfeeding is when you choose to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months after giving birth. Exclusive means, your baby will feed only on your breastmilk and you will not introduce your baby to any other liquids such as formula or solids mixed in water or plain water.
  2. You practice breastfeeding exclusively and comfort your baby at your breast that your baby will turn to your breasts during times of comfort.
  3. You refrain from using any pacifiers or bottles when you practice ecological breastfeeding.
  4. When you are ecologically breastfeeding your baby, you breastfeed your baby during the night too. and during this time, you will sleep with your baby in the same bed or same room.
  5. When you breastfeed your baby during the day, you will sleep with your baby during his/her nap or feed time and you will sleep in the same room or even the same bed.
  6. You will not have a schedule for breastfeeding. You will cater to your baby’s feeding needs at any time through the day or night. You will develop no feeding times as such, but you will feed your baby as and when s/he needs it.
  1. You will give your complete attention to your baby while s/he breastfeeds. You will refrain from any distractions or disruptions while your baby feeds.
  2. Mothers who follow the ecological method of breastfeeding often are delayed by their menstrual cycles. They resume their menstrual cycles as late as 14 to 16 months after they give birth. While mothers who don’t follow the ecological method might experience a delay in their menstrual cycles, the delay is much longer in those mothers who follow ecological breastfeeding.

All said, your body is unique and different from that of other women’s. So it is possible that the time frame you go through post delivery may not match with your peer new mothers. There is nothing to worry about if so. But, watch out for anything that makes you uncomfortable and if you feel any pain. If and when you feel so, mention it to your doctor or your midwife and check what is bothering you.