Here’s what to expect.
You know that after having a baby, your whole life will change, as this new little person’s growing and changing will become one of the most important parts of your world. And while you know to expect some surprises (how does poop end up on the wall?!), there will still be some things that will catch you off guard: like how your period and menstrual cycle may change.
“Changes in the menstrual cycle after giving birth are very common,” says Erin Graham, Board Certified Nurse Midwife with Baby+Co.
Understanding what these changes might be is the first step in learning how to handle them. “A common theme in pregnancy is what I refer to as the ‘rule of threes,’” says Ira Jaffe, DO, FACOG, clinical assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “This applies to a wide range of health conditions, where one third of women will experience improvement in their symptoms, one third will have worsening, and one third will have no change. Menstruation following having a baby follows a similar rule, although it’s not quite as evenly distributed in the population.”
While changes in menstruation—like when your first period starts after giving birth (which can vary, especially if you’re breastfeeding) and how long your cycle lasts—can occur, it’s important to keep PMS symptom changes front-of-mind as well. For example, some women may experience fewer menstrual cramps, although Dr. Jaffe cautions people to remember that every woman’s body is different; your cramping could also get worse, or just stay the same. No matter what happens, healthy habits like eating a balanced diet and getting in regular exercise (even if that’s just taking a brisk walk while pushing the stroller) are a good idea. An over-the-counter pain reliever like Advil can also help with period cramps — just be sure to talk to your doctor first if you’re breastfeeding.
Finding healthy ways to cope with your stress is also key. That may sound kind of insane with a new baby, but even just talking with friends can help. Some women also respond to other stress-relieving activities, like meditation or massage, Graham says. “It’s important to know that every body is different, and women must pay attention to their individual needs,” she explains. Your doctor can also suggest ways to relieve your stress or direct you to counseling services if you’d like to talk with a professional.
There is no direct or linear trend around PMS symptoms post-pregnancy, Graham says, but your body has gone through a lot, and it wouldn’t be out of place for that shift to manifest in different period symptoms. “My best advice is to stay curious about your body and to recognize that your PMS symptoms—whether it’s bloating, headache, or cramping—may change over time,” she says. If you’re worried about any changes you’ve noticed or they’re interfering with your daily life, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any other conditions. And remember: you’re not alone in this!
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