As a birth nerd, I’m obsessed with learning about all things along the reproductive health spectrum. When I stumbled upon The Heavy Flow Podcast last year, I was hooked by its authenticity & laying down of real knowledge. Host Amanda Laird is a holistic nutritionist, writer, and overall badass business babe who I was so lucky to chat with recently! Amanda and I sat down to talk all things postpartum periods, wellness & menstrual health. Get the scoop:
1. tell us about yourself. What is a period coach & how does that go along being a nutritionist?
As I period coach I blend my experience as a holistic nutritionist which focuses on supporting health with food with menstrual cycle awareness. I help people decode their own cycles and increase their body literacy – a term coined by Laura Wershler that I absolutely love – to help them find the habits that help to support feeling their best, every day of their cycles. I’m an anti-diet nutritionist and I believe part of body literacy is knowing how to eat intuitively instead of following a prescriptive diet.
2. Let’s talk postpartum periods. What is happening to my body and why can’t I predict when my period will come back?
Unfortunately there’s no crystal ball that’s going to predict when your period will come back and the range of what is normal is very wide; it could be a few weeks after birth or a few years before you see your period again. In the fourth trimester and beyond we are still experiencing hormonal shifts, especially when breastfeeding. There is emerging evidence that suggests ovulation is triggered by sustained weight gain consistently over a couple of months. This weight gain signals to the brain that you’re no longer running on an energy deficit and there’s enough nutritious food to sustain you, your child and potentially another pregnancy!
The most important thing to take into account is that you will ovulate before you see your period. In other words, you can get pregnant again before you have your first postpartum period, so make sure that you’re taking the proper precautions if you’re avoiding pregnancy!
3. How might my period be different postpartum?
Research says that periods tend to be heavier after pregnancy, but the good news is cramps may be milder. And it makes sense; after all, what other part of your body when back exactly the same after pregnancy?
In my experience, however, anything goes when it comes to postpartum period changes. I’ve seen postpartum periods be lighter or heavier; painless or more painful; accompanied by severe PMS symptoms or with none at all. This can be due to a number of factors – hormonal balance/imbalance, breastfeeding, your age (we should expect our periods to change as we age), stress, nutrition, lack of sleep, the type of birth control that you’re using…
Many people find that the first couple of periods once they restart cycling are particularly troublesome but then level out as our hormones do. If after a few cycles you’re still experiencing symptoms like very heavy bleeding, pain or severe mood swings, you should seek support. I always recommend starting with your GP who can order lab tests and rule out anything serious, and then working with a period coach or naturopath to help you make changes and manage symptoms.
4. How will my postpartum diet effect my hormones/period during this time?
Our hormones are very sensitive to things like sleep, nutrition, and especially stress. Life with a child of any age is stressful and, especially in those early days with a newborn, we are not always sleeping well or eating for optimal nutrition. And there’s no shame in any of that – but if you’re finding your mood, energy levels, skin and of course your menstrual cycles (if it’s returned) aren’t at their best, you might want to see where you can make some small tweaks to rest and nourish yourself. At a minimum, keep taking your prenatal vitamins at least until you’ve stopped nursing.
5. My doctor is recommending I go immediately back on the pill after birth, but I heard that breastfeeding is a natural birth control anyways. What’s up with that?
Yes, it’s true – prolactin, one of the hormones we manufacture during breastfeeding, suppresses ovulation. However, breastfeeding isn’t a guaranteed method of birth control on its own. It’s important that if you’re breastfeeding and hoping to avoid pregnancy that you understand and are observing your signs of fertility – cervical mucus and positioning, basal body temperature – watching for changes, which may signal a fertile window. I recommend reading about the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM) in Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. And if you absolutely do not want to take a chance on another pregnancy at that time, make sure you are using another form of birth control that works for you.
Amanda Laird is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and host of the Heavy Flow Podcast – a weekly podcast dedicated to periods, reproductive health and other taboo health and wellness topics. Amanda is the author of Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation, available wherever books are sold. She lives in Toronto.