Your First Period Postpartum

When and What to Expect About Your First Post-Baby Period

Mother holding baby girl (0-3 months) after bath.

Christa Renee / The Image Bank / Getty Images

After a nine-plus-month hiatus from menstrual bleeding, your first post-baby period can come as a surprise. Without having a recent last period, it hard to guess then the next one will arrive. And if you've had unprotected sex after the baby came, you may be nervous about getting pregnant again before you are emotionally and physically ready.

During pregnancy, you learn a lot about your body and get lots of guidance from other women. However, one thing that is rarely discussed is postpartum periods and how they can change.

If your menstrual cycle previously ran like clockwork, you may be caught off guard by a longer or shorter cycle, or one that is completely unpredictable.

In addition to a different timeline, the flow, duration, and level of cramping may change. Some women who had very heavy periods before pregnancy find their periods may be much lighter or vice versa.

Postpartum Bleeding

After you've given birth, you will bleed vaginally whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean section. This is the site of your placenta healing and is known as lochia.

This bleeding will last for six to eight weeks after you have had a baby and is not considered a return to your normal menstrual cycle nor is it considered your first period postpartum.

When Will My Period Return?

Once the postpartum bleeding has stopped, your period can return anytime from a few weeks to months or even years later. One key factor in determining when menstruation returns is breastfeeding. While some women get their period even if they breastfeed, most do not.

Non-Breastfeeding Mothers

Some women who do not breastfeed have their cycle return within the next six weeks. Most women have it return within a few months.

Research suggests 70 percent of non-breastfeeding mothers will have their period return by 12 weeks postpartum.

Breastfeeding Mothers

If you are nursing you will typically not have your normal period for many months, depending on the amount and frequency of nursing and a number of supplemental feedings, if any. Research suggests only 20 percent of breastfeeding mothers will get their period back within the first six months.

Once you have weaned, your period will usually follow within a month or two. You may also see your period return as your baby begins to eat more solid foods or if you begin to supplement with formula or solids. This is normal as the amount of breastfeeding is less, meaning you are more likely to ovulate.

Pregnancy Is Possible While Nursing

It is important to remember that you may still ovulate while you are nursing, and you can get pregnant again during this time. The risk of ovulating in the first six months after having a baby, while you are breastfeeding, is about 1 percent to 5 percent.

Some women use the lactational amenorrhea (LAM) technique as a means of birth control during this time. This is a very specific method of birth control with strict rules. Not every breastfeeding mother can use this for birth control.​

What Is the First Period Like?

Some mothers find that their periods haven't really changed, while others find them more or less painful or heavy.

Premenstrual syndrome symptoms can also change for the better or worse after bearing children. For some women, PMS symptoms are stronger, while other women find they are no longer as strongly affected by hormonal changes in the days before their period.

For many women, the return of PMS is the first indicator that their period is going to arrive soon.

A Word From Verywell

If you find that your period has changed for the worse or you have strong PMS symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor or midwife. These symptoms may be related to the method of birth control that you are using, your age, or other factors not related to giving birth.

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