A healthy menstrual cycle is a visible sign of a woman’s reproductive health. However, for new mothers-to-be, the menstrual cycle is brought to a halt by the body, for a few months after delivery. Immediately after having the baby, postpartum bleeding occurs for a few days, and then stops. Quite often, there is a considerable gap between postpartum bleeding and the first regular period.
Once the first postpartum period occurs, the menstrual cycle follows a very unpredictable schedule and can come earlier or later than usual, for months. This is a huge cause of concern for women, and they rush to consult their doctors. The good news is that having irregular periods after delivery is perfectly normal, and occurs due to various hormonal changes in the body. With time, the body settles down to it’s usual routine, but the time frame for this process varies from person to person.
Are Irregular Periods Normal After Birth?
First and foremost, it is necessary to understand that childbirth drastically alters some hormones in the body. Therefore, the hormones that ensure a regular period between menstrual cycles take a backseat. It is quite normal for women to experience changes in the frequency and the flow of their monthly period, post-delivery. Many factors come into deciding when exactly the body gets back to its normal menstrual routine.
Reasons Behind Irregular Menstrual Cycle After Pregnancy
From the time of conception, a woman’s body goes through a lot of changes, all alongside the changing levels of hormones. An altered menstrual cycle is a consequence of these changes. Some other external factors also play a role in making your periods irregular after delivery.
Women tend to gain weight during pregnancy and continue to be on the higher side for a few months after delivery. On the contrary, some women lose weight drastically, due to lack of proper diet and sleep. In both cases, the weight directly impacts hormone levels in the body. The weight of the mother is a significant parameter in deciding the time frame within which she switches back to having a normal menstrual routine.
Mothers who breastfeed their children tend to ovulate much later, post delivery. The hormone responsible for inducing the secretion of milk from the mammary glands (prolactin) also suppresses the process of ovulation. Therefore, as long as a mother is breastfeeding her baby, the hormone remains actively in circulation and prevents the ovulation process. Only a successful ovulation culminates in menstruation, and therefore, your periods resume later than usual.
3. Altered Hormone Levels
An expecting mother’s body starts altering the levels of hormones, in anticipation of the pregnancy. These hormones prepare her for childbearing, birthing, and breastfeeding. Unfortunately, the hormone levels do not spring back to normalcy, right after delivery. Factors like diet, exercise, breastfeeding, sex, and weight decide the pace at which it returns to normal levels. In the bargain, the menstrual cycle becomes erratic and unpredictable for a few months, until the hormones settle down.
4. Pre-pregnancy Conditions
If you suffered from conditions such as Endometriosis, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), Hypo- or Hyper- Thyroidism, or any other condition that causes or is a result of fluctuation in hormones, you may experience irregular periods after pregnancy. This is especially if you already faced issues with regularity of your menstral cycle, prior to pregnancy.
Diagnosis of irregular periods can be tricky, as many women tend to confuse the postpartum bleeding with the first period after delivery. The first period occurs after a typical gap of a few months from postpartum bleeding. An irregular cycle following the first period is quite common, and this can last for about four to five months. An unsettled menstrual cycle beyond this period should be taken up with your doctor to evaluate the exact cause of this irregularity.
Tips to Deal With Irregular Periods
There are a couple of things new mothers can adopt to fix the problem of irregular periods and get their menstrual cycle back to normalcy, as early as possible.
It is, undoubtedly, a daunting task to start an exercise routine with a new baby at home. However, pushing yourself to exercise regularly is very important to bring the body back to its pre-pregnancy shape. Exercising helps a great deal in restoring hormonal balance in the body. It also helps in maintaining your weight, which is a significant factor in determining your periods.
2. Healthy Diet
Having a healthy and nutritious diet, post-delivery, is vital in restoring and replenishing the nutrients lost during pregnancy and childbirth. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts provide the much-needed micronutrients for repair and restoration of the body. They indirectly enhance the process of settling down after childbirth, by providing the right atmosphere to correct hormonal imbalances.
3. Managing Stress
Stress affects the body and the mind. New mothers are subjected to a lot of stress due to lack of sleep, new responsibilities, and sometimes, an overwhelming feeling triggered by the new role of motherhood. This directly affects the hormone levels, causing a delay in settling back to normalcy. The best way to facilitate the body’s healing process is to remain stress-free and keep worries at bay, by taking help from others and talking to them about your worries.
4. Avoiding Contraceptives
Contraceptives interfere with the ovulation cycle and further delay the process of getting back the normal menstrual cycle. You can talk to your doctor about other safe birth control options that do not affect the hormonal balance in the body.
5. Taking Vitamins
A deficiency in certain vitamins, such as Vitamin D, and B Vitamins can hamper menstrual cycle, so get yourself tested, and ensure that you take supplements or eat food high in these vitamins, if you are, indeed, deficient. You can get your fill of Vitamin D by letting the morning rays of the sun soak into your body, or including dairy products in your diet. Eat legumes, meat, nuts, whole grains, and green, leafy vegetables, for your daily dose of B Vitamins. Ensuring your body is healthy and has an adequate amount of Vitamins can aid the process of regularising menstrual periods.
Irregular periods can be very frustrating for a new mother, especially since they come with a high level of unpredictability. Understanding the different biological reasons behind this very natural and common phenomenon can be reassuring, particularly for first-time mothers.