5 things no one tells you about your first menstruation after pregnancy

I was surprised when my period returned 7 months postpartum after the birth of our second son. It took 11 month to get my period back after my first pregnancy. That’s a big difference. Our parenting style hasn’t changed – co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand etc. I was shocked to realize what made such a big difference. I wish someone told me about it before…

When I mentioned it to some of my non-mom friends about my surprise they typically reacted with ‘Oh that’s cool. I didn’t realize you didn’t get your period for some months after giving birth.’ Chances are high that actually no one ever told you anything about menstruation after childbirth (unless you are friends with me). So let’s talk about menstruation after pregnancy and what can transform this time of the month into something magical.

1. Babies are cranky around menstruation (if your are still breastfeeding)

This is a tough one. Your hormones are taking you on a ride and so is your baby. The days before my first period arrived after my pregnancies both my babies were crazy fussy. Crying, crying and crying inconsolably without any apparent reason. Nothing helped. Some say that there is a change in your milk supply during your period or the taste of your milk may change. My theory is that they get the same heady mix of hormones from our milk that we also receive. I think my baby boys had a serious case of PMS before my first menstruation.

What can you do?

Take it easy and try to follow the natural wisdom of your body. If you suddenly feel the need to slow down without any apparent reason, do so. In my experience the more we are in harmony with our own natural rhythm, the more relaxed our children also become. It passes in a day or two. The second and third bleeding is already much easier. Our hormones settle and they get used to it probably, just as we do.

2. Your first cycles may be anovulatory

More than 50% of full nursing mothers experience anovulatory bleedings. It seems like the menstruation and fertility has returned, but there is no ovulation yet. The body is still preparing for a normal cycle. This can be the reason why some couples take much longer to get pregnant the second time around. They are trying for a baby, but no egg is getting released yet that could be fertilized. This plays a role in the myth of ‘it takes longer to get pregnant again’, what eventually played an important role in my second pregnancy…

What is causing anovulatory cycles?

The hormone prolactin makes your body produce milk. The more often your baby suckles the more prolactin your body secrets. Prolactin suppresses the production of estrogen. No egg will be released unless your estrogen level reaches a certain threshold. No egg, no ovulation.

How do you recognize an anovulatory cycle?

If you want to know whether you are having an anovulatory cycle or normal menstrual cycle, I recommend you to start tracking your cycle: observe your cervical mucus and measure your basal body temperature upon awakening. It may sound complicated but in reality it is as easy and as essential as brushing our teeth.

Around your ovulation you can normally observe a clear, wet egg white like cervical discharge from your vagina (it really looks like raw egg white). You will notice this usually on your underwear or on the toilet paper when you wipe yourself after peeing. An eggwhite like cervical mucus is a sure sign that you are ovulating.

When you have an anovulatory cycle you don’t see the eggwhite like cervical discharge. You will notice slightly wet cervial mucus maybe for weeks or months. It can come and go as your body is gearing up to ovulate, trying to increase your estrogen levels to the threshold where an egg may be released. The thing is that you don’t know when ovulation will actually take place. You are probably not fertile, but you might be.

As for your Basal Body Temperature – it is all over the place during an anovulatory cycle. You can’t see the distinct pattern of elevated temperatures after ovulation due to the release of progesterone.

The book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is an old, but comprehensive on the topic. I know, I know. I like geeking out on these topics. And it is pissing me off that so many even medical sources claim that it is difficult to determine whether you have an anovulatory cycle or not. It is actually really straight forward. But we need to take responsibility for our own bodies and health.

3. If you track your cycle and you are in your fertile days, it may not take that long to get pregnant again

This ties in with the previous topic. We moved into our new home in January. We were very happy that our dream house allowed space for a possible new addition to our family. ‘Oh it will probably take a couple of months.’ We said. Our younger son was born in October. Do the math.

4. You need to rest during menstruation

We all know this, but most of us don’t do it enough. Our deep inner knowing is going against a strong societal conditioning. We are bombarded with messages since our adolescence to keep going during our menstruation like nothing is happening.

When my period returned some months ago I slowed down as I usually did for my menstruation. Slowing down with two children is a different ball game. It didn’t cut it. My first bleed left me exhausted. I started taking iron. It helped a bit, but my energy level didn’t get back to its old level. Same story during the second bleed.

I started reading the book Wild Power by Sjanie Wurlitzer and Alexandra Pope after my first menstruation arrived. I will still write a full review on this book, because it’s magic. It is a book you need to read and digest slowly. It took me 3 cycles to get to the core of the work. When I did, Mama Mia! What a difference. It’s a slapping my head on the forehead feeling: Why wasn’t I let into this secret before?

How to honor your menstruation?

Following the wisdom of this book, I finally honored the wisdom of my own body during my last menstruation. I did not slow down. I STOPPED! I was lucky to bleed during a weekend. My husband was amazing. He gave me all the space to rest and just be. I was shocked, how much rest and sleep my body needed during those days. When Monday came even my little boys could feel the sacredness of this time. I sat and drank tea, while they (mostly) peacefully played around me. I emerged rejuvenated from my third menstruation with a new found purpose, energy, clarity and drive.

5. Your diet effects your menstruation

Do you know what made the biggest difference during my two postpartum recoveries? My diet. I was a vegetarian before my first pregnancy. I became a guilt ridden meat eater during my first pregnancy and a well-sourced, conscious meat eater during my second pregnancy. I started to cook bone broths and amazing stews in my instant pot. I started to make liver pate and roast bone marrows. I am a big supporter of nose to tail eating. I am buying meat from local farmers, who take their craft seriously. It is not only out of respect for the animal. It tastes so much better!

How does meat affect your cycle?

Red meat increases your estrogen levels. A certain estrogen level needs to be reached for ovulation and menstruation to return as we already discussed it. It can make a difference of 4 months it seems.

I know that it is a controversial topic especially in spiritual circles. The research is pretty inconclusive as almost on all topics of diet and nutrition. I believe that every body is different and we need to feel what is right for our unique constitution and life phase.

I felt stronger and had more energy during my second pregnancy once I started eating meat properly. I was the most surprised by it. Now that breastfeeding is starting to get less demanding for my body, I notice that my need for animal proteins is also getting less. It is no scientific research, just my experience.

What is yours?

Much love,

Orsi

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