Breastfeeding and Menstruating
It’s no secret that your period will eventually come back after having a baby. For some, it returns after just a few weeks and for others, it stays away for 24 months or longer. Some even experience irregular periods that come and go as they please during the postpartum time.
Many factors play into your period’s timing while breastfeeding or chestfeeding, including nutrition, weight, age, and the amount of time you spend breastfeeding and/or the number of nursing or pumping sessions you have each day.
Ultimately, the more you breastfeed the more prolactin your body releases. Prolactin is the same hormone that signals your body to make milk in the first place and is also responsible for reminding your ovaries not to release eggs because your body is busy nourishing a tiny human.
Psychological & Physical Changes
When your period does return, often with a vengeance, you may notice some unexpected physical and psychological changes. After you review the list below, we would love to know about the changes you noticed when breastfeeding and menstruating. Everyone is different and some will notice all of these changes while others won’t notice any changes at all. Our mission, at nixit, is to create space for conversations like these to happen on the web and beyond.
The first change that you might notice is a return in nipple soreness or sensitivity. If you have been breastfeeding a while, then your nipples have probably lost most of their sensitivity to touch. When your period is on its way back, you may notice unexpected pain or discomfort when your little one latches. Do not be alarmed. This discomfort won’t last forever but it will probably return briefly right around the time of ovulation each month. You may also notice breast tenderness since this is a common period symptom whether you are breastfeeding or not.
Breastfeeding and vaginal dryness generally go hand in hand. Vaginal dryness is common for breastfeeding women because of low levels of estrogen and progesterone during breastfeeding. When your period returns, these levels will begin to surge again. As a result, you will likely notice that vaginal wetness returns too. In addition, you might also notice an increase in sex drive, which for some is very refreshing! Worried about the mess? Our favorite menstrual cup can be worn comfortably during intercourse.
If your period has returned as a result of weaning, an increase in feelings of sadness and depression may follow. However, if you are breastfeeding and bleeding at the same time you might also notice mood swings because of the aforementioned hormone shifts that come along with your period. If you are experiencing mood swings that are unpleasant or make you feel unsafe, consider consulting with your physician or talking to a friend or family member about how you are feeling.
Milk Supply Drop
You may notice a drop in milk supply, especially when pumping when your period returns. Some also report that their baby is fussier and wants to nurse more often. According to La Leche League International, “It is common to have a drop in supply at certain points in your cycle, often from mid-cycle to around the time of your period. It can also be less comfortable to nurse at this time. This is due to the hormonal changes and is only temporary. A daily dose of 500 to 1,000 mg of a calcium and magnesium supplement from the middle of your cycle through the first three days of your period may help minimize any drop in supply.”
Heavy periods while breastfeeding are very common. Especially if this is your first period after months of not having one. When dealing with heavy bleeding, it can be helpful to have a menstrual cup and ph balanced fragrance-free wipes to clean your cup on hand for a more comfortable experience. Relearning how to deal with all that blood can be an adjustment after 9+ months.
If you follow breastfeeding groups on social media, talk openly with friends at playgroup, or are quietly observing your own experience as a person who is breastfeeding and menstruating, you might have encountered some of the above changes. Other changes that are normal include weight gain, breast changes, and general PMS symptoms like bloating, cramping, cravings, headaches, and muscle aches.
Embracing the Change
Despite the annoying reality of having your period while breastfeeding most of these physical and psychological changes will be brief. On the bright side, many will feel ecstatic that their sex drive is back in full swing and others will be excited about the possibility of having more children.
Whether you’re totally frustrated by your period, haven’t noticed any changes, or happy to have your period back we would love to know more about your experience as a breastfeeding and menstruating person. Share your experience with us by commenting below. Did you notice any of the changes mentioned above?