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Why do woman have irregular periods post childbirth? Here’s what you need to know

Understanding an important factor and after-effect of childbirth – ‘irregular periods’, is something every woman should be aware of. Irregular periods after delivery, are a normal phenomenon that is expected after childbirth.

The causes are multiple, some interlinked, but all of them play their part in irregular periods. The commonest causes are:

Breastfeeding

This is the commonest cause of irregular periods after childbirth. While a woman is breastfeeding, a hormone called ‘Prolactin’ is secreted in excess amounts; this directly interferes with the regulation of menstrual cycle.

The menses resume anytime between 2 to 18months after childbirth, there is no way of predicting this and it varies largely from woman to woman, it also depends on various other factors.

Even when the periods resume, they are unpredictable or irregular; this may continue for a reasonable amount of time

After childbirth the body needs time to recuperate, repair and pick up its normal rhythm. There is nothing to worry; you need to figure out that this rhythm is different from pre-pregnancy rhythm and just get adjusted to it.

This adjustment takes time, and you need to be patient. Also, too short or too long interval between periods, too little or too much of bleeding, too much pain, are all warning signs and consulting a doctor is advised.

Blood loss during childbirth

Be it normal or by caesarean section, there is significant blood loss which may interfere with higher control centres in the brain, which regulate the menstrual cycle.

Lifestyle factors

Eating and sleeping patterns go haywire; there is stress of looking after the baby, psychological issues such as body image alteration, setback on professional front, non-satisfactory sexual life etc.; these play a pivotal role in increasing stress and can bring about change in your lifestyle.

Apart from these, there can be some other problem unrelated to childbirth, which may show up in this period like an abnormal thyroid hormone fluctuations. This sums up the common causes as to why one should expect irregular periods after childbirth.

Therapies: The approach for handling and treating these problems should be holistic and methodical:

  • Simple changes in diet to make it healthy, wholesome and be consumed in a timely manner, can make a lot of difference.
  • Cut down on sugar and refined carbs (Maida based food), increasing intake of fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Try and organize your sleep patterns in such way that you are adequately rested, however difficult it may be
  • Seek household help so that the stress of looking after the baby single-handedly, is reduced
  • Try and incorporate some kind of exercise in your daily routine
  • Make use of alternative therapies like Yoga and Pranayama, under supervision, to lessen the stress
  • Certain medicines may be prescribed, these are essentially hormonal, and need to be taken only after consultation with your doctor
  • Sometimes newer conditions like fibroids or endometriosis may develop after childbirth; they need appropriate medical and surgical management.

Red Flag: Last but not the least, you can become pregnant while breastfeeding. Because you are not menstruating doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t ovulate. Please take contraceptive precautions after consulting your doctor. If your periods have resumed after delivery, and are late or missed, please get yourself checked to see whether you are pregnant again.

The author is a consultant gynaecologist, obstetrician, laparoscopic surgeon at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi in Navi Mumbai 

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