I am so pumped to be writing this blog post.
I am currently 15.5 months postpartum as of writing this, and about two weeks ago, I got my first postpartum period. I was ELATED the moment I discovered that it was happening.
Around 1 year postpartum, I started to become concerned that my cycle hadn’t returned.
We weren’t in a rush to conceive again, but I wanted my period back. Never did I ever think that one day I’d say I want my period, but here I was checking my underwear every time I went to the bathroom, just hoping and praying that I’d see blood.
I felt my body trying hard to recalibrate. I sensed that my cycle was on the horizon, but every day that passed that I didn’t get it, I doubted this intuition and became more and more frustrated. The few weeks before its return were quite rocky. I sort of felt like I was going nuts, that things were getting worse and worse, and that it would never return.
I see what was happening in hindsight now. My body was calibrating to cycle. I obviously didn’t know this at the time though.
In this blog post, I’m going to go over what I tried in an attempt to bring my cycle back…both things that didn’t work, plus two things that I think greatly contributed to my cycle’s return.
Thoughts on cycles in general
August 14, 2021 was the first day of my last period. It’s been over 2 years!
It feels so good to be a cycling woman again. Less hormonal volatility moving forward (I hope).
I also feel empowered that my body has passed the first “check” of being able to have more babies.
These are thoughts I never had before. In fact, I rarely ever thought about my cycle or its significance before becoming pregnant.
Now, I feel overjoyed that I get to bleed every month. Quite a strange (and seemingly sudden) transition for me.
A few months ago while in the shower, the thought of menopause came to mind. It made me emotional.
Maybe this was because I didn’t have my cycle at the time (and greatly missed it), but the thought of it going away forever at some point made me feel sad.
I’m in my early 30’s now. The rest of my 30’s will probably be spent mostly without a cycle as I have more children. Once I’m done with kids, I’ll probably be in my early 40’s (or around there). Then there will be just a decade or so left with my cycle…forever.
It pains me to think that during my richest fertile years – my teens and twenties – I was completely disconnected from cycle.
On birth control. No information. No guidance. Numb, really. Two decades gone that I can’t get back.
During a time when I wish I would have been connecting deeply with my body – learning its ebbs, flows, and seasons – I was disassociated from it.
I mourn this lost time, but on the bright side, I am grateful that I see this now. This awareness is something I plan to nurture in my daughter. Maybe she will be able to experience what I long for.
It also makes me treasure the time that I do have left with my cycle so that when I reach the next rite of passage, I won’t have as much regret.
Feeling my body recalibrating
From about 1 year postpartum and on, I felt my body working hard to recalibrate.
When I reflect in hindsight, it felt like I had one very long (enduring) luteal phase that lasted 5+ months.
Bloating. Random acne breakouts. Mood swings. Feeling more “bingey” than I usually do. Craving carbs/comfort foods.
It felt like my body was trying hard to balance my hormones and cycle again, but couldn’t quite get there with its current inputs.
I also had wild and unpredictable cervical mucus. I’d get patches of egg-white CM (plus a higher sex drive around the same time). I’d swear I was ovulating only to find no period two weeks later. This happened so often (at least 5-6 times) to the point that my CM began to irritate me.
I’ve heard that this can happen leading up to your first postpartum period, so that was a bit encouraging. But it was also confusing/frustrating as the on-again/off-again patches of egg-white CM seemed neverending.
These signs and symptoms made me suspect that my cycle was on the horizon, but also that my body needed a little extra support to actually start cycling again.
Things I tried (and considered trying) in an attempt to bring my cycle back
As I grew concerned, I felt like I needed to intervene in some way.
I considered trying keto. I’ve heard keto can support fertility in the short term which is why I was thinking about doing it, but I was absolutely dreading the restriction.
I’ve done periods of keto before, and while it works great for me initially, I always end up feeling depleted, lethargic, and having trouble sleeping.
So while I was considering keto, I really didn’t want to do it. I kept telling myself “maybe soon” or “I’ll use it as a last resort.”
In hindsight, I’m so grateful that I didn’t go the keto route.
There are parts of me that hold on to the restrictive mindset thinking that it’s the way. In this season of my life, it’s just not. I receive this message over and over again in different ways. (More on this in the “fruit” section below.)
I also considered giving up night nursing entirely. I was starting to feel super depleted and felt like I could never replenish, which seemed to be linked to my daughter wanting to eat and comfort nurse all night long. I didn’t end up giving it up though, which I’m so grateful for too. (More on this in the “somatic therapy” section below.)
I started to feel so bad (severe depression, mainly, which I read can happen with these herbs if you’re prone to PMS depression/anxiety) that about a week in, I stopped taking them. I considered “sucking it up” and doing another cycle soon, but every time I thought about it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it since I felt so lousy the first go around.
I’m so glad I didn’t just “suck it up” and that I listened to my body instead.
Her Package was next on my list to try, but it looks like I didn’t need it.
What actually worked
There are two things that I think helped my cycle return:
- Radically increasing my calories/carbs (mainly in the form of fruit)
- A somatic therapy session that created a potent energetic shift
There is obviously no way to be sure of this. Maybe my cycle was going to return exactly when it did anyway.
But when I reflect on my journey, it really seems like these two things helped.
More on both below.
Chat with a virtual friend
Conventional sources say that some women must wean to get their cycle back. When I first heard this claim, I was worried that I would be one of these women.
It was always my plan to breastfeed my daughter for years. But I’m no spring chicken (I’m almost 33) and I want a lot of kids. So for a short while, I wondered if I would have to choose between breastfeeding and getting pregnant again. This was an overwhelming thought.
But the more I thought about the “some women must wean to get their cycle back” claim, the less it made sense. Why would some women have this problem while others don’t? I figured there must be something else at play.
Around 14 months pp, I asked a virtual friend (Bree – @ancestralfertility on IG) for her opinion on my situation. What she shared with me was so interesting.
She said that based on what she knows/has seen, the women who get their cycles back super early (like 2 months pp) are usually holding onto a lot of toxins and/or have issues with detox pathways. They bleed not necessarily as a sign of fertility, but because the body needs to detox (since bleeding is a detox).
(Note: This only applies to women who exclusively breastfed. If you fed formula or supplemented from the get-go, it may just be that you got your cycle back early without having detox issues.)
For the women who fall into the other end of the spectrum – 15-18+ months pp without their cycles – it is usually due to mineral/nutrient deficiencies. This could stem from undereating and/or malabsorption issues. High stress is a factor too.
(Note: I’m sure the above is not true in 100% of cases. Bree was just relaying what she’s seen/learned to me.)
I obviously fell into the second camp.
I’ve eaten nutrient-dense food for years (through conception, pregnancy, and now postpartum), but since I likely have malabsorption issues (coming from a conventional diet/lifestyle), I concluded that I probably needed way more food than I thought I did…and then some…and after that, probably some more. I’m also type A and high stress, and stress depletes the body rapidly.
And while I had the narrative that I was eating a lot, I still felt depleted most days…another sign that I probably needed more food.
I had read a few blog posts written by women stating that their cycles came back postpartum just a few weeks after prioritizing their intake/eating a ton of food. I wondered what would happen if I did the same.
I couldn’t fathom stomaching more meat than I was already eating, so I knew I wouldn’t be upping my meat intake. Fruit/raw dairy are easy to get down, so I decided to radically up my intake of both. I did this by drinking smoothies and eating raw milk sherbet. More on both below.
Note: I wasn’t consciously restricting fruit or raw dairy before, I just made it a point to eat a lot…way more than the baseline I was used to.
Fruit, fruit, and more fruit
My friend, Sam, inspired the smoothies.
She would make her own strawberry-mango-coconut water smoothie concoctions and have them most evenings before bed. She did this as a way to prepare for night nursing alongside eating a diet full of nutrient-dense food all day long. She got her cycle back around 8 months postpartum.
This inspired me as I was at almost double that time with no cycle.
Whenever she mentioned her smoothies, they always sounded so refreshing to me. I would joke that she was “onto something” with her smoothies. Now it seems they were a fundamental part of my replenishment journey.
Before this conscious replenishment effort, I usually had two large meals each day and sipped on raw milk in between. Sometimes I would eat a random piece of fruit or a snack like Carnivore Crisps, dates, and raw cheese.
Once I upped my intake, here’s what a typical day looked like:
- smoothie (usually first thing in the morning)
- two fat-heavy/protein-heavy meals with some carbs (one late morning, one in the evening)
- generous amount of raw milk sherbet each day (usually late afternoon)
- few glasses of raw milk (sometimes I add maple syrup, ghee, and/or sea salt to my milk)
- random piece of fruit here and there
My smoothies consist of frozen fruit (usually banana, mango, and/or berries), raw milk, raw cream, bee pollen, honey or maple syrup, sea salt, and some combination of:
- desiccated oysters (ASHLEYR for 10% off)
- beef organs* (ASH10 for 10% off; I get Mood, Memory & Brain + Warrior which is liver)
- fish eggs
- bee pollen
- acerola cherries (ASHLEYR for 10% off; Note: These are also available in capsule form, but if buying just for smoothies, I highly recommend the bulk powder. The capsules are hard to open and the powder is packed hard.)
- lion’s mane mushrooms
- turkey tail mushrooms
*Note: If you’re looking for an organ supplement source that is cheaper than Heart & Soil but still high quality, consider Perfect Supplements. They offer a multi-organ blend and a desiccated liver supplement. You won’t get the targeted support that you do with Heart & Soil, but these are great alternatives. Perfect Supplements also offers both products in bulk powders (bulk liver powder and bulk organ powder). Use ASHLEYR for 10% off at checkout.
**A note on adding propolis to smoothies: Since propolis has such a strong flavor (even if you use just one capsule), you can taste it in the smoothie. It is very faint and sort of fades away as you drink the smoothie, but it’s there. As for the organ supplements, oysters, and fish eggs, I never get a taste of those. They blend in quite nicely. I do sometimes get a taste of bee pollen. If you’re someone who is freaky about flavors coming through, you may want to leave bee products out of your smoothies (unless you don’t mind the taste, of course).
I have been taking the above-listed supplements for a long time, but as capsules with my meals. Now I open them in my smoothies. I find that I enjoy them way more this way. You can’t taste them (with the exception of the bee products) and they’re easier to digest without all of the capsule shells.
I get questions about why I take these particular supplements.
For starters, coming from the SAD, a childhood of vaccines and antibiotics, and 25+ years of almost no awareness of my health, I assume I have malabsorption issues. So if my body is less efficient at absorbing nutrients than it could be, this means I probably need a higher than usual amount of food/nutrients. I am also postpartum and breastfeeding, which is a state of depletion in and of itself.
So in an attempt to replenish my body from a toxic past and after pregnancy/birth, I take nutrient-dense real food supplements (more on why I don’t take synthetic supplements here) alongside eating a nutrient-dense diet. This is why I take beef organs and desiccated oysters – they’re at the top of the nutrient density hierarchy.
As for fish eggs, I take these for omegas. I don’t eat much fish/seafood as I rarely crave it. We take cod liver oil too and go through phases with it. I prioritize it more during the winter months due to its vitamin D content.
Acerola cherries are for vitamin C. Bee pollen contains 250+ active substances (including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants) and supports the liver, immune system, and helps decrease inflammation. Lion’s mane mushrooms support the brain/nerves and turkey tail mushrooms support the immune system/help prevent cancer (we’re big fans of Paul Stamets).
I originally got lucuma (a South American fruit) to make the close-to-copycat version of Paul’s Animal-Based Smoothie. I add it to my smoothies now since it’s tasty (butterscotch/maple flavor) and has its own benefits.
In a nutshell, I chose each of these because they grabbed me in some way – intuitively, you could say. It started with hearing about it somewhere then receiving positive feedback from my own body once I tried it. Somewhere along the way, each one stuck and became a part of my routine.
I also get questions about how often I use each supplement, how I choose which supplements to use each day (since my smoothies are different every day), and how I decide much of each.
Each day, I decide what sounds best for that day. I look at each bottle and am met with either “yes” or “no.” This is an intuitive thing I’ve done for years with supplements.
As for how many capsules I use, this is a gut thing too.
If I’ve decided I’m going to use a supplement that day, a number (amount of capsules to use) also comes to mind. I grab the bottle and hear something like “two of these sound good” in my head.
I rarely add more than two or three capsules of one supplement to a batch. I usually do half or quarter doses (at the most) of each supplement. I also take into account if I’m making smoothies for just myself and Farrah or for my husband too. When I make a batch for all three of us, I use more capsules…probably closer to a half dose+ of organs/fish eggs and a full dose of things like oysters and mushrooms.
As for my raw milk sherbet, this is the recipe. Sometimes I eat nearly a whole batch in one sitting! I usually make this in the late afternoon and have been having it almost every day recently.
As the days continued on, I’d get voices in my head that I was ruining my metabolic health by eating so much fruit, getting unhealthier by the day, and getting farther away from my cycle returning.
These thoughts likely stemmed from carnivore/keto diet culture.
I almost gave up a few times due to these thoughts, but I’m so glad I stuck with it.
3-4 weeks after starting this conscious replenishment effort, my cycle returned. I also have way more energy, feel better in general, and have no plans on stopping anytime soon.
In fact, the night before the first day of my bleed, I slept better than I had in months. And ever since that night, I have been sleeping like a rock, despite my daughter still nursing multiple times throughout the night. During this timeframe, I’ve only had one night of poor sleep. Lo and behold, it was after a day that I under-ate.
When I started my replenishing efforts with the smoothies and raw milk sherbet, I was eager to eat in the mornings (to the point of jitters sometimes) and would slurp the entire smoothie up quickly. After a few weeks of eating both regularly, I started to feel much calmer in the mornings, less ravenous (but still hungry), and only required a portion of my smoothies to feel satiated.
It really does feel like some internal stores were replenished and like I am operating from a more nourished place.
Perhaps the extra fruit is what my body/brain needed to push me into a positive energy balance, which is what encouraged my cycle to return.
For more about the “positive energy balance” I’m referring to, below is an excerpt from this blog post.
“After coming across this study and reading this post, things started to click. There was this other theory out there called the metabolic load hypothesis where essentially researchers found when a nursing woman reached a positive energy balance her period would return soon after – despite a high nursing intensity. That positive energy balance usually resulted in a small amount of weight gain (as little as 1/2 a pound a month which shows how sensitive the body can be) as her body prepared to ovulate and potentially grow another baby. I was fascinated by this, but it made a lot of sense to me. Our bodies have to be in a place of adequate energy availability and low stress for them to think, “hey, it’s safe to house and grow a baby in here!””
The above-linked post is a great read and is actually one of the first sources that planted the seed for me that eating a ton of food may help my cycle return.
The somatic therapy session that helped
I’ve been going to somatic therapy for about 5 months now. It’s definitely the most potent therapy style I’ve ever tried and has been transformative in many ways.
A few weeks ago, I attended a session. I was feeling particularly crappy in the days leading up to this session.
To do trauma/bodywork successfully, it’s not a good idea to start out being too aroused (otherwise, it’s just too much).
So as I entered the session feeling incredibly depleted, I told my therapist that I wasn’t sure that I could even do bodywork that day.
She responded with an observation: that I looked the palest and sickest she had ever seen me.
This floored me a bit, but I was so grateful for her transparency. Plus, what she said matched how I felt inside. Something was obviously up with me.
So instead of doing bodywork that day, we explored how I was feeling.
I mentioned my concerns about not having my cycle back as it was at the forefront of my mind. I also mentioned night nursing and how much I felt like it was depleting me.
At this time, my daughter was still nursing throughout the night. In the weeks leading up to this session, it seemed like she was nursing every 15 minutes overnight.
We got into this routine where every time she stirred, I would pop my boob in her mouth because I wanted to go back to sleep. As a result, she would eat all night long. I assume this was not great for her digestion while sleeping, and in turn, I think she was restless often because of it….creating more stirring, more boob, and the cycle would continue.
It was a loop I didn’t know how to get out of. I’d wake up feeling like I ran a marathon. My body felt super dry and empty – like all the life force was just sucked right out of me.
I was also super irritable and snappy. It took me at least half a day (sometimes longer) to eat/drink enough to replenish. Then I’d do it all over again, day after day, with no end in sight.
I began to dread nighttime. I felt like I could never sink into a deep slumber and relax – even for an hour. This started to really screw with my mind.
I explained all of this to my therapist and she asked me a series of questions that implied the following:
Was my daughter healthy? How long was I planning to nurse for? Was I considering myself in the equation, or dismissing my own needs? Was I being a martyr?
The questions about nursing made my gut churn at first. I told her I felt super reactive and like someone was trying to pull nursing away from me. This obviously wasn’t the case, so it was interesting that I felt that way.
And there was clearly something up since I was getting so emotional about it.
I told her I felt like I had no other option when it came to night nursing. My daughter needed comfort at night and I did not want to deprive her, so I felt stuck. I must nurse her all night long, and as a result, I guess I just had to live super-depleted and irritable. There was no other way.
She responded with two things:
- there are multiple ways to give comfort; nursing is just one
- you will have to deprive her at some point; that’s what parenting is
Boom. Those simple sentences hit me like a ton of bricks.
My daughter needed comfort throughout the night, but nursing was not the only way to give her comfort. There are many other things I could do. I could sing to her, rock her, rub her back, or snuggle with her.
And yes, as her mom, I would have to deprive her of something at some point. Depriving her is not wrong, assuming the action is coming from a grounded place.
So I went home that day and told myself that we would try a night free of nursing. Every time my daughter woke up, I’d rock her back to sleep instead. This would give her comfort, but give me a break from nursing.
So that’s what we did. We actually did this for a few nights (with the exception of an early morning feed around 4/5 am).
I was amazed to find that she not only slept better, but she started self-regulating way better. This happened in just a day or two.
Sometimes she’d roll around and then go right back to sleep. Other times she’d roll, then snuggle with me and go back to sleep. Sometimes she needed to be rocked but would fall back asleep in minutes.
In my head, I envisioned this transition to be chaotic and stressful, but it was surprisingly underwhelming.
I realized that when she stirred before, by popping my boob in her mouth immediately, I wasn’t giving her a chance to regulate herself.
By pausing when she stirs, I allow her to practice self-regulation. This is better for both her and me.
With this new knowledge and change, I felt empowered.
After a few days of foregoing night nursing and using other methods of comfort, my body felt like it got the rest it needed. My soul felt replenished, more so than it had in months.
And somewhat intuitively after a few days of withholding night nursing, we started it back up again.
My daughter still nurses overnight, but I pause when she stirs and allow her to regulate. Sometimes she goes right back to sleep herself. Sometimes she wants the boob (especially in the early morning hours), and if that’s the case, I don’t have a problem with it. And some nights she still eats multiple times.
The most important thing is that I no longer feel like a slave to night feeds.
I don’t feel like I have to do it. I just use it as a tool now and feel like I have a choice.
My body and spirit felt this shift out of martyrdom, which cleared up space.
Just like the fruit thing, there is no way to be sure this shift helped me get my cycle back, but lo and behold, nearly 2.5 weeks after this session, my cycle returned.
The decrease in night nursing also played a role I’m sure, but the energetic shift is what felt the most potent for me. The fact that we picked up night nursing again just a few days later (and still had some heavy feeding nights after that) makes me think there was another factor involved.
Feedback and reflections
I shared these reflections with my Instagram community and received feedback from many mamas.
Multiple women who got their cycles back early postpartum reached out with some version of, “I can totally see this being true!” Same with the “later end” women. Many resonated with being depleted, undereating, having nutrient/mineral deficiencies, etc.
It was cool to hear all of the stories validating what Bree shared with me. Both ends of the spectrum made so much sense to me…not only logically, but alongside how I felt in my own body at 15 months postpartum with no cycle yet.
The body is wise. It gives us signals and communicates with us often. Deep down, I think many of us often know (or at least get a sense) of what’s going on in our own bodies. Even if the thought is scary (detox issues, malabsorption issues, etc.), we have hunches based on how we feel and the data/mental “downloads” we get from our bodies. Then everything comes together in certain moments – like when we read or hear something that deeply resonates – and that’s when we go, “a ha!”
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I was considering resurrecting my cycle from the depths using keto, another cycle of herbs, and other supplements. In hindsight, I’m so glad didn’t do something like this…something that was unsustainable to carry on long term.
Bree also shared a story of a woman who did this. I’m not exactly sure what she did to bring her cycle back, but she ended up getting it back soon after, conceived shortly after that, and then ended up having a sickly pregnancy. It all relates.
I think it’s important that if you do consciously intervene to support your body, it should be something sustainable. Otherwise, it’s just a bandaid.
And to circle back on the “some women must wean to get their cycle back” claim, I’m not convinced that this is the case.
For the women who choose to wean to encourage the return of their cycle, I wonder if something else was amiss. Maybe breastfeeding alone was not the issue, but perhaps undernourishment, high stress, and/or some other variation of depletion in combination with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding may have been the factor that tipped the scale, but it is not necessarily the factor that needs to be sacrificed if root causes are addressed instead.
To close, I must say this just once more…
I am so elated that my cycle has returned.
This rite of passage feels timely with the energetic shift out of postpartum. What a cool experience it has been to feel one full fertility cycle.
Venturing back to our TTC days two years ago, I prayed I wouldn’t see blood when I went to the bathroom. Two weeks ago, I was overjoyed to see blood when I went to the bathroom. A full circle moment.
My body and psyche feel lighter. I feel rejuvenated and like I have entered a new space. It feels like a rebirth of sorts.
It seems nearly impossible for me to lean in and trust when things are rocky, but situations like this are reminders that things work out even when you’re convinced that they won’t.
If you are working hard to nourish yourself to encourage your cycle to return, I wish you the best of luck.
And if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.