As a new mom, what should you expect from your postpartum body? Every woman’s body and recovery from childbirth is different, but here is some information about what you may experience with your new mom body when it comes to menstrual cycles and vaginal dryness.
Return of Menstrual Cycles
There is a broad range of what is considered normal for the return of menstrual cycles while breastfeeding. Some moms get their first period when baby is only two months old and exclusively breastfeeding. Other moms are partially breastfeeding and do not get their periods back until baby is weaned. It all depends on how sensitive each mom is to the hormonal influences of breastfeeding. It is also affected by how frequently baby is nursing, if baby is supplemented with bottles, if baby takes a pacifier, how long baby sleeps at night and if solids have been introduced.
Exclusive breastfeeding can be 98 to 99% effective if baby is less than six months old and menstrual cycles have not returned. When the menstrual cycles return, mom should consider herself fertile. Some moms do not ovulate before their first period especially if it returns in only two to three months after delivery. The cycles may be irregular at first and may be shorter or longer than normal. Moms may notice nipple tenderness, headaches, increased moodiness or a temporary decrease in her milk supply. Sometimes baby will notice a change in taste of the breastmilk and be less interested in nursing or more distracted. The milk is no less nutritious while mom is menstruating.
Moms can take a supplement of calcium/magnesium from the middle of her cycle when she is ovulating to the second or third day of her period to ease nipple discomfort and decreased milk supply. This supplement works to prevent the drop in calcium level which is associated with nipple tenderness, drop in milk supply and uterine cramping experienced with menstruation. Dosage recommendation ranges from 500 to 1500mg of calcium and 250 to 750 mg of magnesium. This should be a combination pill. Some moms will benefit from taking herbal supplements with Fenugreek in them if their milk supply takes a temporary drop during their cycle.
Mothers experience many changes in hormone levels during breastfeeding compared to pre-pregnancy and pregnancy levels. These changes can contribute to vaginal dryness, tightness or tenderness while breastfeeding. This is related to low estrogen levels during breastfeeding and is not permanent but is Mother Nature’s form of birth control.
The other hormones that play a big role during breastfeeding are oxytocin and prolactin. Oxytocin is released when the baby latches on causing the milk to letdown. This may also occur during orgasm so moms may notice that her breasts leak or squirt milk during sexual arousal. Postpartum mothers are often fatigued due to demands of an infant and/or other children on her time and energy. Elevated prolactin levels during breastfeeding also have a side effect of making moms sleepy and may also decrease libido.
Water-based lubricants such as Astroglide or KY-jelly can ease vaginal dryness. Vaseline is not a good option. Spending extra time with foreplay and being romantic or even getting extra help around the house can be very helpful to get mom “in the mood”. Dads should never underestimate how much a mom’s mood will improve when he is providing help and support with baby, siblings and household chores. Moms can also talk to their OB doctor about the use of vaginal estrogen if these other measures are not helpful enough. Estrogen can decrease milk supply so ideally it should be avoided for at least six months and baby is well established on solid foods. Oral estrogen tends to have a bigger impact on lowering the milk supply.
Going to a breastfeeding support group can also be very helpful for moms especially if it is run by an OB nurse and Lactation Consultant. It gets mom and baby out of the house and helps her to realize she is not the only one out there going through these issues. It is also a great way to find out what interventions were helpful for other moms.
If you have any questions, please contact Diane Erdmann by email or calling (402) 707-1696.