Breastfeeding is hard. Whether you are doing it right or not, breastfeeding hurts at the beginning. Sometimes a lot. My nipples cracked and bled with my first baby. Engorgement was scary and extremely uncomfortable. My breasts radiated heat and actually pulsed. But my lactation consultant was my knight in lanolin-coated shining armor, and after the first two weeks, breastfeeding became more comfortable and much more manageable.
In the end, the way you feed your baby is inconsequential compared to the way you love your baby. On your fourth day postpartum, you will most likely cry. A lot. This is usually when your hormones crash. This is the day when you will be certain that your life is over, that your partner is a jerk, and that you cannot do anything right. BUT — if you continue to cry and continue to feel down, seek help pronto. Once you get out of your pajamas, people start expecting you to be competent. Wear clean, fresh pajamas if you must, but stay in our pajamas unless you want to cook and clean and entertain visitors along with the bleeding, oozing, leaking, and caring for another human life parts of the first two weeks.
These same babies will, eventually, sleep. You cannot ruin them for life. Other parents will tell you their babies are sleeping.
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You will face these same alternate versions of parental realities again when you talk to other parents about potty-training and reading further down the road. Seriously, babies are as different as adults. Some sleep better than others. But they all struggle sometimes. Your child will sleep sooner or later. Find support — neighborhood groups, breastfeeding groups, hospital new mom groups, whatever you can find. There is no such thing as a "standard" postpartum period, but it is common for the first few periods to be different from how they were before pregnancy.
Some women notice that their periods are heavier after childbirth. Others find that the blood is a different color, that there are more clots than usual, or that cramps are more intense. According to Cleveland Clinic doctor Diane Young, most women will notice their period returns to their personal "normal" over time, meaning however it was before pregnancy. Among women who do not breastfeed or who breastfeed on an irregular schedule, menstruation tends to return more quickly. A analysis of six previous studies found that most women got their first periods between 45 and 94 days after giving birth.
One study in the review found that the average first period happened at 74 days postpartum. The main factor affecting the timing of the first postpartum period is ovulation. Women who want to check whether they are ovulating can try using an ovulation predictor kit OPK , which are available in pharmacies and online. Especially in the months immediately after giving birth, it is common to have irregular periods.
Women who are breastfeeding are more likely to notice irregular periods, as the hormones that support breastfeeding can cause the body to delay ovulation or ovulate infrequently. Even in women who are not breastfeeding, periods may be irregular, as the body takes time to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Over time, menstruation will return to its usual pattern. However, some women may have had irregular periods before pregnancy, such as those with polycystic ovary syndrome PCOS or endometriosis. If a woman is concerned about irregular postpartum periods, it is best that they speak to a doctor to find the underlying cause.
Lochia is the discharge from the vagina after giving birth. It begins as heavy bleeding and may be dark red and full of clots. Over several days or weeks, the bleeding gets lighter, eventually turning pink, brown, and clear. It is common for women to experience some cramps when passing lochia because the uterus is contracting as it returns to its usual size.
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Lochia is not a period. It is a sign that the body is still recovering from giving birth, as the uterus sheds the lining that supported the pregnancy. A review found that lochia bleeding lasted from 24 to 36 days. However, only one study followed participants until bleeding had stopped, meaning that postpartum bleeding continues for at least 3 to 5 weeks, but possibly longer. It is possible to mistake lochia for a period or to think a period is lochia. While both lochia and menstruation begin with bright red blood, lochia tends to get lighter in color as the days pass, while the blood from a period darkens over time.
Women who are breastfeeding may not have a postpartum period for many months because breastfeeding often prevents ovulation and subsequent menstruation.
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Some women treat breastfeeding as a birth control method. But a Cochrane Review of previous research found that It is safe to begin using some forms of birth control immediately after childbirth. Doctors usually recommend waiting several weeks or longer before starting combination pills, however. Women who want to avoid hormonal birth control can consider condoms, diaphragms, the non-hormonal intrauterine devices IUD , or fertility monitoring methods.
Hormonal birth controls may help regulate postpartum periods. These methods include pills containing estrogen and progestins, or only progestin, as well as the hormonal IUDs, injections, or implants. Some birth control options can stop a woman's period or cause less frequent periods. A doctor may recommend these options for women who experience very heavy or painful periods.
Women who are breastfeeding may worry about the effects of birth control on the baby or their ability to produce breast milk. A study compared two different types of birth control — combined pills and progestin-only pills — and did not find significant differences in breastfeeding patterns or milk production. While hormonal birth control is safe to use while breastfeeding, it is still essential for a woman to talk to a doctor about any new medication she may be about to begin. After a woman has given birth, the doctor or midwife should offer advice about warning signs of a problem.
Normal bleeding patterns vary, depending on the birthing method, a woman's medical history, and other individual factors. A person should also arrange to see their doctor for unusual bleeding, very painful periods, or for questions about irregular periods. The first postpartum period may be heavier and more painful than those before pregnancy, or it may be lighter and easier. Some women have their first postpartum period shortly after lochia, while others may wait many months, especially if they are breastfeeding.
When changes in a woman's period are painful or otherwise troubling, it is best to speak to a doctor, who can help relieve the symptoms. Article last reviewed by Tue 9 October All references are available in the References tab. Borda, M. Postpartum fertility and contraception: An analysis of findings from 17 countries.
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Casey, F. Oral contraceptives. Classifications for fertility awareness-based methods. Espey, E. Effect of progestin vs. Fletcher, S.
Lochia patterns among normal women: A systematic review [Abstract]. How do your periods change after pregnancy? Jackson, E. Return of ovulation and menses in postpartum nonlactating women: A systematic review [Abstract]. Moldenhauer, J. Postpartum care. Van Der Wijden, C.
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Lactational amenorrhoea method for family planning. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews , MLA Villines, Zawn.