Clots, heavy flow, unpredictable timing—here’s how to be prepared for your first period after giving birth.
By Sarah Z. Wexler
Despite all of the physical complaints pregnant and newly-postpartum moms have, one thing most of us don’t miss is having a monthly period. We hate to remind you, but at some point, your period is going to come back. And for most women, it’s not just back but roaring back. The first postpartum period is often heavier (autofill suggestions when you search for “first postpartum period” include the words “horrible” and “clots” for a reason), especially if you had a C-section, because the uterus may still be shedding its blood lining from pregnancy. But don’t freak out that this is your new normal: eventually, your flow will likely return to a similar heaviness and length of time as your pre-pregnancy periods.
Here’s what you can do to manage the return of Aunt Flo.
Anticipate the timing: Your hormones dictate when your period comes back, so moms who use formula or a formula-breastfeeding hybrid can have a first period as soon as five to six weeks after giving birth. For moms who fully breastfeed, periods may not start again for a year or more, until you stop overnight breastfeeding, or stop breastfeeding entirely. That’s because when you breastfeed, you release a hormone called prolactin, which delays ovulation (and so, periods). Moms who start to breastfeed less often, around three feeds a day, may start getting spotting, a light and irregular period that looks like little spots of blood, before the full period.
Know what’s normal: Yes, your first period may look and feel different, and a heavier period than you’re used to with small blood clots is totally OK. But call your doctor if you have any of these causes for concern: a clot that’s the size of a golf ball or larger, if you’re bleeding so much that you soak through a maxi pad every one-to-two hours, or if you feel weak, lightheaded, or faint, which could be a sign of anemia.
Be prepared: It can be stressful–hello, throwback to junior high–to know your period is coming, but not when it’s coming. What if you want to wear white jeans?! With a long break from periods, it’s been awhile since you had to make sure your purse was stocked, so now is a good time to stash a pair of spare undies and a couple pads in your purse or diaper bag. As long as you’ve been cleared by your doctor (usually around six weeks postpartum), you can use tampons or a menstrual cup, but some women are more comfortable with pads for this first period.