In the game of menstruation, I've never had a good hand. I got my period early in life — I'm talking about fourth grade! — and wasn't spared from cramps, either. Though my bleeding didn't get heavy until I got into my late teens (thank God), my cramps were usually quite debilitating on day one. But my cycle, for better and for worse, has always been formulaic. It hit when it was supposed to, even without taking birth control pills, and it was reliable in nature: heavy and painful on day one, and a nonevent every day thereafter.
I'd heard that your period changes as you get older, but no one told me that it can change after you have a baby. Where my PMS cramping was intense, I knew that two Aleve the second I started spotting and a heating pad could usually get me through the worst of it. It would be awful, but it would only last a few hours, then it would be tolerable. Now, though, the pain I experience on my period is different, as though my cramps decided they were done with my uterus and wanted to relocate down to my pelvis.
When I asked my ob-gyn in a recent checkup if someone's period can change, we talked about my new pelvic pain. She gave me an exam to rule out any other factors and asked whether or not the intense pelvic pressure I was experiencing happened at any other time outside of my cycle. The answer was no; it was happening in place of the cramps I'd spent decades acclimating to. The pain, I described to her, was now similar to the discomfort I had in the days leading up to childbirth, that intense lower pelvic pressure that made me think the bones in my vagina might actually snap. "That's how my period pain feels now," I told her.
She explained that because she didn't feel anything in the exam and that the pain was occurring only during my period and at no other time, my period had flat out just changed. "Your anatomy changes," she said evenly. It just changes? Like, I dyed my hair or something?
To compare my original debilitating cramps with the childbirth-like pelvic pressure I now experience on my period is pointless — it all stinks — but I had no clue that in the laundry list of ways your life alters after having a kid, your period could be one of them.