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Get all the answers to your most pressing postpartum period questions
Pregnancy comes hand in hand with all sorts of discomforts, but nine months without a period isn’t one of them. But after your baby is born, you might have a lot of questions about the return of your menstrual cycle, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Find out what to expect in the weeks and months after delivery with our quick and helpful Q&A on postpartum periods.
When will my period resume after my baby is born?
It depends. Prolactin is the main hormone associated with breastmilk production. Elevated prolactin levels in breastfeeding women typically suppress reproductive hormones and prevent ovulation for some time. How long? It could be anywhere from six weeks to a few months to more than a year after giving birth. Some moms don’t get a period until they stop breastfeeding completely. When your period returns will depend on a number of factors, including your age and how long and often you’re breastfeeding. In general, the more you breastfeed, the longer it will take for your period to return.
What should I expect from my first period postpartum?
Like pregnancy, delivery and every stage of motherhood, first postpartum period experiences can vary. Some moms notice some brown spotting before they truly start, while others have a bright red heavy flow off the bat. Basically, be prepared for anything. If you’re one of the “lucky” ones who’s period resumes one month after baby, pads may be your best friend since your body is still healing post delivery.
Will my period be different postpartum? For how long?
Your post-baby period may be nothing like your before-baby period—it could be longer, shorter, heavier, lighter, more cramping or less. And your initial postpartum bleeding isn’t an indication of how your first period will be. If your flow seems super heavy and your first few cycles are irregular, it can be completely normal and will likely balance out as your period regulates. But if you’re concerned the bleeding is excessive (you’re changing your pad or tampon more often than every hour or passing large clots), check in with your doctor.
Can I get pregnant if my period hasn’t returned yet?
Because breastfeeding can prevent ovulation, it can act as a sort of birth control BUT that’s under a very strict set of criteria: your baby is less than six months old, your period hasn’t returned, and baby is nursing on demand around the clock and not taking any formula or other foods. Once you start pumping or supplementing, stop nursing at night or introduce solids, breastfeeding is not an effective form of birth control. You may or may not ovulate before your first postpartum period. The longer you go without a period, the more likely you will ovulate before that first period. If you do ovulate before your period returns, you may be fertile without being aware and could get pregnant before you ever have a postpartum period—something that is not entirely uncommon. Bottom line: if you’re not ready for another baby yet, don’t rely on breastfeeding alone, and talk to your doctor about other forms of birth control.
Can being on my period affect breastfeeding?
You may notice nipple tenderness and a slight dip in milk supply during your period—or not. Don’t freak out, as it’s temporary. Focus on nursing or pumping often. Some moms find a calcium + magnesium supplement, as well as extra iron, can help boost supply during that time of the month.
Post-baby periods can be a surprising part of motherhood. Stash a couple of tampons or pads in your bag so you’re ready whenever that initial one appears and try not to stress if things seem a bit off for the first few cycles. Just like motherhood, you’ll find your rhythm in time.