What to Expect From Your First Period after Baby- and When Will it Return?!
After giving birth, there is a period of time before you start to experience a menstrual cycle again. You may be wondering if your periods will be different during postpartum after baby or how long it will take for your period to return. While periods after birth vary greatly, there are some things you can expect when it comes to having your first period after baby.
Chances are, it has been awhile since you had your last menstrual cycle. While pregnant, there is no ovulation and no period (except for VERY RARE cases of superfetation.)
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When Should My Period Return After Giving Birth?
The return of your period can happen anywhere from a few weeks postpartum to months- even a year+ after giving birth. On average the return of period is around 74 days, but breastfeeding can draw out the time it takes for your period to return because of the hormone levels. While it is not common for a woman to ovulate while she is breastfeeding, it can happen (and yes, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding!) Your body produces more prolactin when you are breastfeeding to stimulate milk production. This usually keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and, in turn, not experiencing periods.
Are Periods After Baby Different?
It’s likely going to take a few cycles for you to feel like your period is back to “normal.” You may have fewer or more days between cycles, your flow may be heavier or lighter and PMS, cramping and other symptoms can feel different after giving birth. If you are noticing a difference in your menstrual cycles, don’t be alarmed. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum cause many fluctuations in your hormones and the impacts go beyond the days of birth and early postpartum. This means we can’t give you a direct answer about what to expect from your period after baby, which is probably frustrating, but know that if periods feel different or you don’t know what to expect, you’re in good company. Most women notice some kind of change at least for the first couple of cycles.
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Will I Have Less Menstrual Cramping After Birth?
Often women with endometriosis or other painful period experiences are told they may have less cramping and pain in periods after going through pregnancy (I remember being told this when I was in high school and first prescribed birth control for my periods which, in another story, wasn’t great.) The reason you may experience less pain after birth is again hormones. Increased progesterone levels can carry over from pregnancy and birth which impacts endometrial tissue and can result in less painful periods. This can be a welcomes reprieve after birth, though this does not mean periods will continue to be less painful (I know, bummer).
Some women do enjoy less painful periods after birth. This can be from the cervix and uterus changing shapes, sometimes stretch and impacting the cramps you may experience. Also, hormones can cause the uterus to relax and create easier periods.
Why is My First Period After Birth So Heavy?
First, it’s important to know that lochia after birth can last 4-8 weeks (average 6 weeks) after giving birth. Lochia is the bleeding and tissue passing after giving birth as your body heals from pregnancy and delivery. Read more about Postpartum Bleeding here
During this time, it’s important to know what red flags to look out for such as:
- Red and heavy blood more than a week postpartum
- Large clots (bigger than golf ball), or high number of clots
- Discharge has a foul-smell
- Fever or chills
- Dizzy and/or nauseous
- Racing heart
Note: Postpartum bleeding may increase when you are breastfeeding, engaged in activity (walking steps, etc.), straining to use the restroom or when you first get out of bed.
Bleeding is a normal part of postpartum as the body transitions from pregnancy and birth. However, if you feel your bleeding is abnormal, contact your doctor.
In the first period after birth, you may still be experiencing heavier periods which can be caused from the changes in your uterus and the mucous lining throughout pregnancy and birth. As this continues to pass and go “back to normal,” your periods should also.
What is a “Normal” Period After Baby?
Just like pre-baby, normal looks different for everyone and every body. According to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic, an average menstrual cycle is “28 days long; however, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days.” The Cleveland Clinic also indicates that most women bleed 3-5 days “but a period lasting only two days to as many as seven days is still considered normal.”
As your cycle returns after birth, you should be thinking of “normal” as your normal pre-pregnancy and use that to identify if anything feels off. This also means if you had struggles like PCOS or endometriosis, they may return after having a baby (though you should have a continual conversation with your provider about this.)
Another consideration is if you were on birth control prior to your pregnancy. Birth control is known to shorten or even get rid of menstrual cycles and so you baseline of “normal” may be different when you are postpartum and not back on birth control.
Cramping During Breastfeeding: Is My Period Back Already?!
Some women wonder if their menstrual cycle is returning just days (or hours!) after giving birth. Do not fear, you are not experiencing the return of your period. This is most likely involution- afterbirth cramping.
Afterbirth cramping is the process of your uterus returning to its’ regular size after growing during pregnancy and delivering during birth. This can be noticed most during breastfeeding due to the hormonal release.
I Had My First Period, Now Will They Be Consistent?
Once you’ve had your first postpartum period, you might wonder if you can count on a regular schedule. Chance are, it will take a few cycles in order for your periods to be predictable again. This means you want to still use protection if you are having sex and carry your favorite hygiene products with you (um have you tried Thinx Period Panties yet?!) Also remember that the flow, duration and cycle can change as your body regulates again and gets back into a rhythm. If you find yourself with erratic periods for months after you cycle returns, it’s a good idea to talk with your medical provider about this.
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So in short, it’s hard to describe exactly what to expect with your first postpartum period. Like pregnancy, birth, and all things postpartum- our bodies all recover and operate in different ways. Do not be surprised by a difference in duration or flow during your first few cycles after you give birth. Know the signs of any postpartum bleeding problems, and have open honest conversations with your medical provider about what you are experiencing so that you can have your periods with confidence.