Having a break from your period is another reason to love pregnancy. No more thinking about when it is going to start or running to the bathroom without supplies. Now that your baby is here, you may be wondering when your period will be making its appearance again.
While there isn’t a hard date you can mark on your calendar, there are things to learn about when your period may start, what you can expect, and if you can get pregnant before you get your first postpartum period. Read on for the ins and outs of your first period after baby.
What Is the Difference Between Lochia and Postpartum Periods?
When you first have a baby, you will experience four to six weeks of bleeding. This bleeding is called lochia. Lochia, like a period, is a mix of blood, uterine lining, and mucus.
The main difference here is that your body is getting rid of the extra fluid, tissue, and blood it needed during pregnancy. Lochia only happens after birth. On the other hand, your period happens when ovulation occurs, and the egg is not fertilized. Generally, periods come every month on a regular schedule.
When Will You Get Your First Period After Baby?
After you have a baby and your postpartum bleeding stops, it’s natural to wonder when your first postpartum period will begin. The answer is — it depends on your body and your hormone levels.
It may be smart to pack some extra period supplies in the diaper bag or your purse if your period takes you by surprise. The normal signs you usually feel may not come around during your first postpartum period.
Everyone will have their first postpartum period at different times, but if you can, ask women in your family how soon they had their first postpartum period. This may help you have a general idea.
Something to keep in mind too — whether or not you breastfeed may play a big role in how soon you get your first postpartum period.
If You’re Not Breastfeeding
If you are not breastfeeding, it’s normal to start your period as early as five weeks after birth. On average, most women who don’t breasfeed say their period came back between six and eight weeks. By six months, your periods should be back and more regular.
If You’re Exclusively Breastfeeding
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your period will likely take longer to come back. Exclusively breastfeeding can also be exclusively pumping, or breastfeeding and pumping.
The earliest you may see your postpartum period is about ten weeks. However, some women do not get their periods back until they stop nursing.
The reason for the delay is due to the prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone responsible for the development of the breasts during pregnancy. It also tells your milk glands to produce more milk. This same hormone can inhibit the hormones that promote ovulation.
If You’re Partially Breastfeeding
If you breastfeed and formula feed your baby, your period will likely come back around six weeks or later. Partially breastfeeding can also include when your baby starts to eat solid food, around the six month mark. Many women will get their periods back around this time because they are not nursing as often.
Will Postpartum Periods Affect Your Milk Supply?
If you are breastfeeding, you may notice slight changes in your milk supply. This drop in your supply is due to the hormones associated with your ovulation and period. Usually, this drop only lasts for a couple of days, and then you will be back to normal.
Your baby may get a little fussy during this time when it’s time to nurse. This is because the hormones can change the way your milk tastes.
Generally, women can nurse as usual while they have their periods while breastfeeding. If you notice a dip in your supply though, you can increase your milk with certain foods.
Some women may not notice a dip in their supply, and their babies may not seem affected by any changes in the taste of the milk.
How Is My First Postpartum Period Different Than Normal?
After childbirth, your period may go back to normal, but it’s more common to have a new normal.
Before you were pregnant, your cycles may have been a certain way. Perhaps they were heavy, with a lot of cramping, and pretty regular. After pregnancy, your periods may be lighter, less cramping, and not as regular. It all depends on your body and hormones.
If you are concerned about your specific period cycles or symptoms, reach out to your OB/GYN. They will be able to answer your specific questions. If they feel like your cycles may not be in the realm of normal, they may run blood tests to test your hormone levels.
Lighter or Heavier Flow
One way your period can change is it can have a heavier or lighter flow. Some women find their periods heavier than their pre-pregnancy period flow. You may also notice more clots. If you pass clots bigger than a quarter or if you soak through a tampon or a pad in an hour for several hours respectively, you should talk to your doctor.
More or Less Cramping
Cramping during your postpartum periods may be different than what you are used to. Some women experience severe cramping before pregnancy and little to no cramping after birth. For others, they may experience more cramping after pregnancy. Whether or not you experience more or less cramping will depend on your body.
Once your periods come back after pregnancy, you may expect them to fall back into their normal regular cycle. This may be true for some women, but it may take a while to go back to a regular for others. The average cycle is thought to be anywhere from 24 to 38 days.
The length of your period may change, as well. A normal period length can be anywhere from two to seven days. After pregnancy, your periods may become longer or shorter than what you were used to.
Are Pads or Tampons Safe To Use for Your First Postpartum Period?
If your period comes back before you are six weeks postpartum, make sure you stick to wearing pads.
Whether you delivered vaginally or via cesarean, during birth, your placenta releases itself from the uterus which may cause a wound. If you delivered vaginally, you may also have tears or cuts inside of the vagina. Tampons can irritate these tears or encourage bacteria to grow, causing an infection.
It’s best not to put anything inside of there until your doctor has cleared you. Better to be safe than sorry and wear pads for the first six weeks.
Can You Get Pregnant Before Your First Postpartum Period?
In order to become pregnant, you must be ovulating.
Ovulation is when an egg is released into the fallopian tubes from the ovaries. At this point, two things can happen —sperm can come in contact and potentially fertilize the egg if you have sex, or the egg is not fertilized, and it continues down to the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, you will have your period. If it is fertilized, you may be pregnant.
The tricky part about the time before your first postpartum period is that you won’t know if you are ovulating. In fact, you may not even ovulate before your first postpartum period. It is hard to be certain how likely you are to ovulate, but the range is between 12 and 78 percent. It’s more likely for a woman who is not breastfeeding to ovulate than one who is, but breastfeeding is not a sure pass to not get pregnant.
What Contraceptives Are Safe Postpartum?
If you want to make sure you do not get pregnant early in postpartum, you should have a plan for contraception. Talk to your OB/GYN about what options make the most sense for you.
Remember, in the first six weeks, you should refrain from intercourse. Like using a tampon, bacteria can get inside your vagina during sex, and you may risk getting an infection.
Here are a few contraceptive options you may consider:
Birth Control Pill
There are many different birth control pills on the market. Depending on if you are breastfeeding or not, your doctor can help recommend the best one for you. If you are breastfeeding, they will likely recommend taking a progestin-only mini pill. Oral contraceptives are 95 to 99 percent effective.
Another contraception option is the IUD (intrauterine device).
An IUD is a small T-shaped piece of plastic or copper inserted into the uterus. Some IUDs have the hormone progestin in them. If you choose an IUD as your contraception, it must be placed by your doctor. You may be able to have it placed at your six-week postpartum check-up or later. IUDs are 98 to 99 percent effective.
You may be unsure of which contraception you are comfortable using. You may also decide that oral contraception and IUDs are not right for you. If this is the case, you can always use condoms.
Condoms are around 85 percent effective, but when used properly, their effectiveness may be higher.
Track Your Ovulation
For some women, tracking their cycles and ovulation is an effective way to prevent pregnancy.
There are ways to track ovulation—basal temperature, cervical mucus, and ovulation tester. By learning the cycle of your body and tracking it on a calendar, you may be able to prevent pregnancy.
If you decide to use this option, you may want to use a condom—or another form of birth control, since your body’s rhythms may not be regular in the postpartum period.
What’s Normal and What’s Not
Typically, your first period after baby will come and go without any cause for concern. However, there are symptoms you should watch for that could be a signal of other issues happening within your body. Some of these symptoms can be signs of infection or other conditions.
Call your doctor if you experience symptoms such as:
- Heavy bleeding—soaking through a pad in an hour for many hours
- Continuously bleeding for more than seven days
- Large blood clots larger than a quarter
- Sudden and severe pain when bleeding
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Sudden fever
- Trouble breathing
- Severe headache
During pregnancy you had a short break from your monthly periods. Now that your baby is here, be prepared for some changes when you get your first postpartum period. Your first period after baby may be different than what you are used to, but it will settle into a new normal.
While most women get their period back around six weeks after birth, it may arrive sooner, or later, without warning. Knowing whether you plan to breastfeed or not may take a little bit of the guesswork away.
Ovulation doesn’t always happen before your first postpartum period, but it can. If you don’t want to get pregnant again right now, it’s best to protect yourself using contraceptives like birth control or condoms.
Motherhood is a journey. Your body goes through many changes, and Expectful is here for you through all of those changes.