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Your One-Stop Guide To Postpartum Periods

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Postpartum periods means the periods after childbirth. When a woman is pregnant, the eggs are fertilised. Hence, this process does not occur again during the nine months or less (in case of a premature baby) of pregnancy. But what happens after pregnancy? When does one experience their first period? Are they different from periods prior to pregnancy? I shall be discussing all of it in this article.

Is The Initial Bleeding Right After Delivery Periods?

No, it is lochia.

Lochia is the discharge from the vagina after giving birth. This starts as soon as the baby is delivered. This can go up to 4-6 weeks. This is not your first period post pregnancy. This is the blood, uterus linings and placenta that was used to nurture the baby inside your womb. Therefore, it is bright red and fades to light pink or whitish later.

Initially, lochia starts with heavy bleeding. After 10-15 days, bleeding reduces or stops altogether. However, the case may be different in different women. Women who deliver their baby normally have heavier lochia that lasts for anywhere between 10-20 days. In case of a cesarean delivery, it usually lasts for not more than 5-8 days.

When Does The First-Postpartum Period Occur?

Usually, it is said that women who are indulged in extensive breastfeeding do not get periods till the time they continue to breastfeed. There is a link between breastfeeding and periods. This is so because women lack estrogen and other hormones that make the menstrual lining shed while breastfeeding. Most of these hormones are needed for the purpose of lactating.

If a woman is not breastfeeding at all, then she may get her period 4-6 weeks after her lochia. If she is using some formula along with breastfeeding, then she may see blood spots every now and then, but not regular periods. However, the case may differ from woman to woman.

On interviewing mothers, I found that most of them got their periods within the first month or between the second and third month of delivering their baby. Mrs Robert (my friend’s mother) told me, “My mother-in-law got her first postpartum period six months after delivery. I was also extensively breastfeeding my daughter, yet, I got my periods within a month and half. I reckon that it is due to the changed lifestyle.”

Mrs Shaista (my mother) shared, “Everyone in my family, including my mother, sisters and mother-in-law, got their postpartum periods after the second month of delivery. May be genes have a role to play.”

Are Postpartum Periods Different From Periods Prior To Pregnancy?

This is one of the most common doubts. Postpartum periods may be different for some. Generally, it is heavier as the menstrual line is rebuilt. Depending upon the pattern of breastfeeding, it can be regular or irregular. Usually, it starts as irregular and becomes regular in 4-8 weeks time.

Postpartum periods can be more uneasy as one gets to rest less. Mrs Nardeep Kaur (my friend’s mother) said, “Post the birth of a baby, a woman’s sleeping cycle is disturbed. She has to do a 24-hour job of attending to the baby.”

As the uterus is still coming back to its normal shape, stomach cramps occur. For a few women, postpartum periods are more painful than ever before. Ms Rinku (my aunt) told me, “I got extremely heavy periods with fever, cold or dizziness. I saw a doctor but medicines react. One has to be very careful during such times.”

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional and behavioural changes that happen in some women after giving birth. It typically starts from the fourth week of delivery.

 Reasons For Postpartum Depression Among Urban Indian Women:

  1.  Lack of knowledge: Unfortunately, most couples in urban India are not aware of the changes that a woman’s body goes through post pregnancy. It becomes challenging for a woman to accept those changes.  
  2. The only job is the baby: Along with the many changes and pain that a woman goes through, she also has to take care of the child. She gets no time to sleep, groom herself or socialise with friends (outside).

Reasons For Postpartum Depression Among Rural Indian Women:

  1. Lack of rest and workload: Unlike couples in urban India, couples, especially women, in rural India have a lot more knowledge regarding pregnancy and postpartum. They see the process of childbirth closely. They know about the issues one faces during postpartum. There are enough helping hands for child-rearing. However, due to working in the informal sector, a woman does not get enough rest. She has to go back to the farm or work and help the family sustain. The fact that she is unable to breastfeed her child every two hours also frustrates her.

PPD is diagnosed and treated depending upon the time gap between delivery and onset, and the severity of depression.

Each human body is different. There is no straight-jacket formula as to how one’s body will react. The number of days of lochia, the gap between lochia and first periods, and the pattern of periods differ from woman to woman. Climatic conditions and food intake play a key role in determining these factors.

Postpartum depression must be taken seriously. A couple must be completely ready — both mentally and emotionally — to cater to postpartum. There is a dire need to create awareness regarding postpartum.

About the author: The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program.

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