Part of raising a child is helping them navigate all the physical and emotional changes that accompany puberty. But most new parents quite reasonably assume they have at least a decade before their kid enters puberty and, in some cases, gets a first period. Of course, that’s true of their first “real” period — but some newborn baby girls have a “mini-period,” and although it can be unnerving to see blood in your baby’s diaper, doctors say it’s completely normal and not a reason to panic.
But let’s back up for a minute. What exactly is a mini-period, and what causes it? “The hormonal milieu with pregnancy is something that can affect not only the mother but the female fetus/newborn as well,” Dr. Kecia Gaither, physician and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, tells SheKnows.
Similarly, Amanda Gorman, a pediatric nurse practitioner, explains that occasionally, newborn babies will experience bleeding as a result of the withdrawal from the estrogen they received while in utero.
“This rapid drop in estrogen mimics that of the typical menstrual cycle in a women,” Gorman tells SheKnows. In turn, it can trigger the sloughing of the inner uterine layer, which results in vaginal bleeding. She says that the bleeding typically lasts between one and five days and doesn’t require treatment. “Parents can clean the baby as they typically would externally,” Gorman advises. “There is no reason to clean any deeper than usual.”
The blood from a mini-period is typically pinkish to bright red. If it lasts for more than a week or there is a change in the color of the blood, Gaither says it’s time to check in with your child’s pediatrician. “Any such changes should readily be brought to the attention of the pediatrician to ensure it’s coming from the vagina and not the rectum,” she says. “Rectal bleeding may be the first clinical indication of a potentially serious gastrointestinal malady.”
Gorman adds that parents should bring their baby to the pediatrician if there is continued bleeding, heavy bleeding with clots or bleeding accompanied by a foul odor. Although minor bleeding in newborn baby girls is a mini-period, these more “intense” symptoms could be a sign of a medical issue that needs to be treated by their pediatrician. “Other causes of vaginal bleeding in this age group include infection, trauma, foreign bodies, genetic conditions and/or congenital anomalies,” Gorman explains.
Another unexpected surprise in your child’s diaper may come in the form of “scant dark-orange staining,” according to Gorman. Although it’s commonly mistaken for blood, it’s not a mini-period — but it’s also not a cause for concern. “These are urinary uric acid crystals excreted in the urine,” she explains. “Uric acid is in high concentration during infancy and this excretion is normal.”
While we’re on the topic of blood in diapers, experts note that parents of newborns should pay attention to blood in the stool. It’s often associated with dietary changes that can cause constipation, which leads to small abrasions in the rectum that bleed. Gorman tells SheKnows that this could be a sign of food intolerance or allergies. “Parents should discuss any noted blood in the stool with their pediatrician early to best identify the most likely causes,” she advises.
But as far as mini-periods go, it’ll be your little girl’s last period until she reaches puberty. Phew!