While recovering after giving birth, you may wonder when you will get your first postpartum period and when your menstrual cycle will return to normal.
While there is no date set in stone on when you can expect your first postpartum period, it is typically about four to six weeks after delivery if you are not breastfeeding exclusively.
However, many other factors can affect when your first postpartum period arrives. Many women worry and wonder if it means they are pregnant again or if there is a health concern they should get checked out.
For most women, periods return after three months of no breastfeeding.
This article will discuss the return of the menstrual cycle after giving birth and how it can be affected by things like birth control, breast milk production and breastfeeding, medications, your health and diet, and more.
No period after pregnancy when to worry
A lot of changes occur in your body during your postpartum period.
Unlike the movies, you don’t typically leave the hospital looking like you’ve never been pregnant.
You’ll likely still look pregnant for several weeks after giving birth, as your hormones regulate and you start to get back to a more active lifestyle.
There are several stages to bleeding during the postpartum period, and understanding each of them and the factors and risks that can affect them is crucial, not only for your physical health but your emotional and psychological health as well.
Postpartum bleeding stages
Your body goes through many different changes after you have a baby.
It can be confusing and stressful to figure out what is going on with your body while adjusting to motherhood and an extra family member.
The following are the bleeding stages you can expect to go through following the birth of your baby.
Bleeding occurs almost immediately after the birth of your baby. It is generally heavier and starts sooner if you have a vaginal birth than a cesarean section.
However, due to hormone changes, all women bleed.
This initial bleeding, however, is not your first period.
This bleeding, which can last up to twelve weeks postpartum, is called lochia. Lochia is a discharge that occurs after the baby and placenta have left your body.
Typically heavy bleeding occurs during this period, and it is common to have a lot of blood clots. However, contact your doctor if the clots are especially large or frequent.
This blood is usually darker in color than a regular period, even looking brown in some cases. This is typical. You don’t need to be concerned.
If you experience severe pain, foul-smelling discharge, large clots, and heavy bleeding that makes you feel dizzy or weak, you should contact your doctor and check out.
Your first period
You may not get your first postpartum period for quite some time after having your baby.
When you start to menstruate again, you may experience several months of irregular periods. This is entirely normal.
Postpartum periods can return in as little as four weeks after birth, but in most cases, it’s more common to see your period return six to twelve weeks postpartum.
However, even this isn’t the case for all women. When your period returns depends on many different factors.
What affects your first postpartum period
Don’t worry if you don’t get your period right away after you have a baby. Your feeding method, birth control method, health, and other factors can significantly impact your menstrual cycle.
Birth control pills
After your six-week check-up, and even sometimes before, you can get back on birth control if you want to prevent pregnancy right after having a baby.
Many women are unaware you can get pregnant again after having a baby without starting your first period.
It isn’t advised that you have back-to-back babies. Doing so can put your health and the baby’s health at risk. Therefore, birth control may be your best option to prevent it from happening.
Hormonal contraceptives can affect how you ovulate or even prevent it from happening.
Generally speaking, the type of birth control you begin taking can affect any woman’s menstrual flow and cycle, regardless of whether or not she has had a baby.
Some birth control can stop your period altogether, while some slow it down so that you only have one every few months.
If you are on a mini pill because you are breastfeeding, you may also experience a lack of periods.
Speak to your doctor if you want regular monthly cycles but don’t know what type of birth control is safe for your feeding preference and body.
If you breastfeed exclusively
Breast milk production is due to hormonal changes that allow your body to produce milk to feed your baby.
The same hormone responsible for making your body produce breast milk can keep you from having periods.
If you are breastfeeding exclusively and are wondering: How does breastfeeding affect my period? The answer is: It can stop it entirely in some cases.
Many exclusively breastfeeding women still don’t have periods for several months postpartum.
Some women can go as long as eighteen months before needing pads or tampons. This is entirely normal and should not be concerning.
What happens if you stop breastfeeding?
If you stop breastfeeding or start cutting down on feedings, you may get your period almost immediately following that change in routine.
For example, simply cutting out nighttime breastfeeding can cause you to start your menstrual cycle back up.
The first few periods are often light at first and will increase in heaviness gradually until you are back to having regular periods.
If you bottle feed or combination feed
Women who breastfeed exclusively often don’t have periods while they are breastfeeding. This is because breastfeeding acts to suppress ovulation.
However, if you are not nursing or pumping exclusively or frequently, or if you choose to go with bottle feeding your baby infant formula instead, you may get your period just a few weeks after birth.
You may experience painful periods or more than one irregular period as your body starts to regulate its hormones.
However, if you have to change your period underwear frequently, or are using more than one pad per hour, seek medical attention or call your doctor.
Your first period after birth is often a time of heavier bleeding than usual, but you shouldn’t have such heavy periods that you change pads every hour over several hours.
Breastfeeding suppresses ovulation, while formula feeding does not. This means that periods return sooner, and you can get pregnant more quickly.
If you stopped breastfeeding but didn’t get a period soon after or had a period and then experienced missed periods, you may want to consider contacting your doctor or getting an at-home pregnancy test.
Most women, even those who exclusively breastfed, experience the return of a period a few months after they stop breastfeeding.
Even something as simple as slowing down the milk supply because your child has started to eat solid foods or stopping nighttime breastfeeding because your little one is now sleeping through the night can cause you to ovulate.
Breastfeeding is not birth control
Regardless of what anyone tells you, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding.
The slightest change in your breastfeeding routine can make the hormones that stop ovulation slack on their job, and you can start to ovulate again.
A low dose of birth control like a mini pill is the best option for breastfeeding moms who don’t wish to be pregnant.
Trusting that you can’t get pregnant is not a safe method of birth control.
Some doctors claim that breastfeeding as birth control, also known as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method, is effective.
Use your judgment, but know that milk supply and the hormones that cause it can cause you to ovulate.
If you gave birth and had your first periods shortly after that but have since experienced period change, there is a chance that you are pregnant.
Implantation bleeding occurs when your period is not due, but you experience light bleeding for a day or two. This is due to a fertilized egg implanting in the uterus.
If you have experienced this, talk to your doctor, health visitor, or midwife about getting tested for a possible pregnancy.
No two women are the same
Women don’t experience pregnancy the same way, and the recovery period after isn’t the same for all women.
It can be challenging to figure out whether you need to worry if you still aren’t bleeding after you have your baby.
At any point, you can make an appointment with your doctor if you are concerned or take a pregnancy test.
The rule of thumb, however, is that if you are not breastfeeding and it’s been more than three months, you should contact a doctor.
There may not be anything to worry about, but health and safety are essential, and in this case, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
If you find yourself pregnant again, try not to stress out too much.
Your doctor will help you navigate this pregnancy and will help you find resources to help if you require them.