November 6, 2021

What you need to know about your first postpartum period

What to expect from your first postpartum period: when will it happen, what will it be like, and what you'll need. 

What is my first postpartum period going to be like?

There are a lot of things no one tells you about motherhood – how exhausted you may be, how your priorities may shift, and most of all, how your body will change. This was especially the case for my postpartum period. Once my menstrual cycle returned several months after giving birth, my periods were so heavy. Tampons were awkward and I would soak through one within hours. It was challenging to keep up with caring for a baby, chasing after a toddler, working and worrying about changing my tampon or soaking through my clothes. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?! For me, my first postpartum period welcomed me with a heavy cycle, pelvic pressure, achiness and a return to tampons – which were suddenly slightly more uncomfortable (ouch!). 

So, if no one has told you, I’ll be the first to tell you – your first postpartum period might look like a crime scene. Depending on whether you are breastfeeding, nursing or pumping, your first period could come back within a month or two, or take much longer. (Back pain while breastfeeding? Read this!) Below are some friendly reminders for when the big day finally comes. If your period has not returned within a year after delivering your baby or weaning from nursing/breastfeeding/pumping, check with your physician and make sure all is good.

Will my first postpartum period be heavy?

Like I mentioned, mine looked like a crime scene. Your first postpartum period is likely to be really heavy. This is due to changes in the uterine lining post-pregnancy. You typically have increased uterine lining during pregnancy, which means more to shed during your postpartum periods.

Will my first postpartum period be painful? 

It could be. Typically with more endometrium (uterine lining) shedding as mentioned above there is more cramping and pain involved as you bleed. This increase in blood and pain should decrease with time. If your period is heavier after returning, try the V2 support as this will help decrease heaviness and pressure you may feel during your period. In my personal experience, I felt a lot of heaviness and pressure down there due to more laxity and less support after birthing two babies.You can also try the @itsyoubabeofficia (pretty much like a jock strap for your vagina). It helps with prolapse, vaginal swelling during pregnancy, vaginal pressure during periods, and vaginal varicosities/varicose veins. 

When will my period come back after having a baby? 

If you are not breastfeeding, your period will likely come 6-8 weeks after your delivery. However, if you are breastfeeding the amount of time it takes for your period to return will vary. This depends on if you are exclusively breastfeeding (no other forms of milk or food) or not. With breastfeeding, your prolactin levels must remain high which causes estrogen levels to remain low; therefore, there’s a lesser chance of ovulation, and subsequently, having a period. However, your period can also come back 6-8 weeks after delivery even if you are breastfeeding!

Why do tampons feel weird in my vagina? 

Tampons felt weird in my vagina after having kids but can be the case for my women – babies or no babies. When my first period arrived after childbirth, all of a sudden tampons felt like they were falling out of my vagina. It was awkward and uncomfortable. Finding the right products to manage my monthly periods is like an algorithm I still haven’t mastered, but thankfully there are more options available than ever before. But first, let’s dive into why tampons might feel weird in your vagina. 

  • Your pelvic floor muscles might be too weak. During pregnancy and birth, your pelvic floor muscles may lengthen and weaken and tampons are more difficult to support. 
  • Your pelvic floor muscles can be too tense. If your muscles are tense or overactive it may be difficult or painful to insert tampons or feels like the tampon is being pushed out.
  • It’s simply time to try a new product. I had been using only tampons since I first got my period and a lot has changed since then (thankfully!). 

The best alternatives to tampons 

Thankfully tampons are no longer our only options. Menstrual cups are eco-friendly, reusable and provide up to 12 hours of protection. The Diva Cup is one of my favorites. They offer model 0 for those under the age of 18, model 1 for those under 30 who have not yet had a baby, and model 2 for mommas like myself (given birth) or for those over 30. I initially felt hesitant because I was not sure how to insert or remove it. But I quickly learned, it’s all about the seal! Other brands to try include Puta Cup In It (has a fit-finder quiz to help you select the best cup for you) and Cora Women and Lola. Below are some other alternatives to tampons. 

  • A menstrual cup
  • Pads and panty liners 
  • Period underwear⠀

Do you have ”period underwear”? Underwear that you often have to ball up and shove to the bottom of the laundry basket, soak in the sink after using, and/or toss in the garbage because they are beyond salvaging?? Thinx underwear are made specifically for periods. They are also are super comfy and cute. They are amazing for those early postpartum days when you are fed up with wearing diapers or gigantic pads in your yoga pants. I often pair them with a menstrual cup or tampon and it honestly makes me so much less stressed to know I’m not going to leak through my clothes. I feel great knowing I have so many options. 

Consider contraception 

If your first postpartum period has arrived, remember you are at risk for getting pregnant if you are having sex. There is at least a chance, and you should be aware it could happen. It is recommended you wait one year post vaginal delivery and 18 months post cesarean to get pregnant again for gynecological health; however, go for it if that’s what you want. If not, consider contraceptives. Do what makes sense for your family!

My best period hack 

I’ll leave you with my best period hack. Use a bag of frozen peas to help alleviate pain. It’s cheap, effective and likely something you already have at home. If you have increased pressure and heaviness during your first postpartum period, head to your freezer and grab a bag of frozen peas and place the bag over your vagina. Lying on your back with your feet up the wall or on a couch to help decrease the pressure and blood flow in your vagina. The frozen peas are a pretty inexpensive ice pack to ease that swollen feeling. Another option is to get a maxi pad, put water on it and freeze it, using that in a second pair of underwear.

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Are you currently pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, make sure to download my FREE resource — 5 Myths We’ve Been Told About Pregnant Bodies!  I correct common pregnancy myths and give you tons of tips to help you feel strong and healthy for 40 weeks and beyond.
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Sara Reardon PT, DPT, WCS is the owner of NOLA Pelvic Health and founder of The Vagina Whisperer, a resource for online pelvic health education and therapy to help women worldwide with pelvic health conditions. She is a board certified women’s health physical therapist with a special interest in treating pelvic pain and pregnancy and postpartum conditions. She is a mom, wife, Saints fan and wanna be yogi.

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