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I Wish Someone Warned Me About Awful Postpartum Periods

I’ll be honest, I was lucky enough that I never really thought much about my periods over the years before I tried for a baby: They were just something that arrived, were a mild inconvenience and an excuse to run myself a bath and eat more chocolate.

It was only in my early 30s that my periods became a symbol of something different: a symbol of not being pregnant. They weren’t physically painful but were certainly emotionally painful: after deciding to try for a baby, each month I wiped and saw blood Ieft me feeling like a failure. Not only was I another month away from potentially falling pregnant but I had to deal with PMS on top of all the emotions that come with trying to conceive. 

When I was 33, I finally fell pregnant and it’s strange at just how quickly I got used to not having a period! As my due date neared,  I’d been warned that I would bleed for a few weeks after giving birth (lochia being the correct term) and then everything would just get back to its normal cycle. So I dutifully stocked up on maternity pants and pads for my hospital bag and thought no more about it. And for a while, I didn’t need to: I had a planned c-section and I was surprised at how easy the postpartum bleeding seemed. It wasn’t too heavy compared to what I’d read (those giant maternity pads were neglected by day five), and it seemed to fade away altogether in about 10 days or so.

Bleeding just seemed another thing that I’d read about motherhood that seemed to be absolutely fine in reality. However, as I’m learning, those early few weeks are a bubble of excitement and adrenaline, and it’s only as your baby gets a little bit older, that the realities of how much your body has actually changed and how tough it is hit you.

I waited for it to fade but this period seemed to go on and on and on. Was this my new normal?

As my breastfeeding journey was short, it was a mere 10 weeks before my period returned. Just as the newborn haze was wearing off, the celebration cards were packed away and my husband had returned to work, my period returned. And boy was it with a vengeance. 

It was the heaviest period I’ve ever had of my life and made the lochia I’d experienced fade into insignificance (or perhaps I was so smitten with my son in the early days I just hadn’t noticed?). 

I was in agony: painful stomach cramps leaving me attached to the sofa whilst also trying to keep a 10-week-old fed and happy. The bleeding seems to be constant: I was changing sanitary towels every hour in the day and soaking through bedsheets during the night. All I wanted to do was spend the day in the bath but unlike my pre-baby periods, I was lucky to grab a two-minute shower. Forgot curling up with a tub of ice-cream, I never had a free hand to eat. 

I waited for it to fade but this period seemed to go on and on and on. Was this my new normal?

According to my GP, it was all part of the postpartum period. A word that you’ll find is used to explain any strange symptom away after you’ve had a baby — whether that’s hair loss, heavy periods or mental health problems“postpartum” seems to be a term to summarize the message: You’ve had a baby now go away and deal with it. 

So for the first few postpartum months where my periods were heavy and uncomfortable, I just got on with it and I was told eventually it would settle. However, time passed, my son turned one and still my periods were a nightmare…. 

…”Postpartum” seems to be a term to summarize the message: You’ve had a baby now go away and deal with it. 

Whilst the pain seemed never ending, all of a sudden my period seemed to stretch out further: it started off with five or six days and edged to seven and eight days. One month I even bleed on and off for nine days.

Not only this but, after always being an emotional person, my PMS seems to also get so much worse after having a baby too. I’m not talking about welling up over a commercial or feeling slightly on edge which I’d experienced in my pre-baby days.

Instead, the days leading up to my period caused me to feel irrationally angry and my mind would swirl with hopelessly dark thoughts of losing my son or something happening to me. In those days, the doom or gloom felt unshakable with no end in sight. Yet, as soon as my period actually arrived, the fog lifted and I could see clearly once again.

A combination of two to three days of PMS and sometimes 8 days of on/off bleeding meant I had barely two weeks to recover until the cycle started all over again. That week post-period was when I always felt I could conquer anything but before I knew it, I was in PMS hell yet again.

A few months ago I finally plucked up the courage to have a transvaginal scan because I felt as if my month was dominated by this cycle. Luckily it showed everything was healthy and I’d recovered nicely from my c-section. A relief but there was no explanation from my doctors other than this was something I needed to get used to.

Just as I’d resigned myself to my new reality,  my last period at 17 months postpartum seemed to be a little bit more manageable. There was still pain but it wasn’t as heavy or as long as the previous ones. Could this be things returning to normal? Or perhaps my body finally regulating itself as I now consider baby number two?

Either way, I wanted to write this article to give new and expectant moms the warning I was never given: Prepare yourself for lochia but be aware that your monthly cycle may well be completely different to what you experienced in your pre-baby years. I can’t promise it will go away or get better but, like most aspects of motherhood, I know how reassuring it is to know you’re not the only one going through it. 

Before you go, check out our round-up of some of the many different period products menstruators can choose from:

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