While you likely spent the months of your pregnancy reading about what to expect during delivery and how to care for a newborn, you may not have found enough time to educate yourself on postpartum challenges. As you welcome the new addition to your family, understanding changes to your menstrual cycle and weight can help ensure your emotional and physical well-being.
When to Expect Your Period
Anticipate a few weeks of lochia—vaginal discharge containing mucous, blood and placental tissue—in the weeks after your delivery, while spotting may occur for up to six weeks. Most women begin regular menstruation and ovulation within six to eight weeks after birth. Exercise, stress levels and medications, as well as your diet and any existing health conditions can all affect the timing of your period. Bottle feeding your baby may cause your menstrual cycle to begin five to six weeks after delivery, while breastfeeding can delay the onset of your period. The production of breast milk affects ovulation, so your period may start later if you breastfeed or pump your breast milk.
Many women experience heavier and longer first periods after giving birth, although subsequent periods may be lighter. Contact your obstetrician if you notice persistent bleeding six to eight weeks after delivery, as this may be a sign of infection, thyroid disease or another health condition.
Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain
Your body mass index (BMI) and pre-pregnancy weight can determine the amount of weight you will gain during pregnancy. Most women gain between 25 to 35 lbs or 1/2 lb weekly during the first half of pregnancy and 1 lb each week in the second half, according to the March of Dimes. Your fetus, breasts, uterus and higher blood volume comprise most of the weight, while maternal fat and protein account for the rest.
Losing the Weight
Expect to lose some of your pregnancy weight during and after the delivery of your baby. Most women lose an average of 12 lbs after delivery and then lose about 9 lbs in the next two weeks. Over the course of the next six months, you will likely lose at least 5 lbs, although the amount can vary based on total weight gain during pregnancy and your diet, as well as your level of exercise. Mothers who had normal deliveries can resume exercise in about four weeks. Wait at least eight to 12 weeks if you had a cesarean delivery.
Ask your obstetrician for advice on any exercise during pregnancy to reduce the amount of weight you’ll need to lose after giving birth. In most cases, activities you enjoyed prior to your pregnancy can be continued, including participating in an aerobics class or jogging. Keep plenty of water handy to prevent dehydration and never over-exert. Avoid lying on your back, which can restrict the baby’s blood flow, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
- Baby Center: Will My Menstrual Cycle Be Regular While I'm Breastfeeding?
- American Pregnancy Association: Menstruation: A Journey Through Your Cycle
- Cleveland Clinic: Healthy Expectations: Achieve the Right Weight for a Healthy Pregnancy
- March Of Dimes: Weight Gain During Pregnancy
- FamilyDoctor.org: Exercise During Pregnancy
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.