Home Tips & Advice Periods After Birth: What to Expect

Periods After Birth: What to Expect

by Fay Nyberg

However the experience of pregnancy was for you, the absence of periods for nine whole months is something that most of us enjoy. But what should you expect when it comes to menstruation after pregnancy? While some mums don’t have periods for many months or even over a year after pregnancy, others find that their period returns within a matter of weeks.

How quickly your period returns after giving birth depends on a number of factors, including how you’re feeding your baby. You may have heard that mums who are formula feeding can expect their menstrual cycle to return earlier. That said, if you are breastfeeding, there’s no guarantee that it will stop Aunt Flow from making an early return. Some mums are definitely surprised by the arrival of their first period after giving birth. The real-life experience of one mummy in Periods After Birth  is a great read for anyone who was caught off guard by their first set of post-baby monthlies or irregular periods.

A summary

  • If you are formula feeding baby, you can typically expect your periods to return around 6-12 weeks after giving birth.
  • For those who are exclusively breastfeeding, this could be six months or even more. This is due to hormones released by breastfeeding.
  • For combi-fed babies, you may find that periods return quite early, however, this will be influenced partially by whether you are breastfeeding through the night.
  • It’s really important to remember is the fact you can get pregnant before your period makes an appearance. This is why you will usually discuss contraception at your six-week postpartum check up.

A Midwife Answers Your Postpartum Period Questions

Today on Bump, Baby & You we are talking all things postpartum menstruation.

We’ll be covering what you should generally expect and we’ve got some information and advice from Midwife Sarah Chalboub from Budding Babies too. So, if you’re wondering when you can expect your first period to arrive or concerned that it hasn’t, here’s what you need to know….

Q: When should postpartum bleeding stop?

A: “So, the lowdown on periods! Bleeding after birth (lochia) commonly lasts for up to 10-14 days, although in some instances it can last for up to six weeks. The length of time it takes to stop depends on many things, including the type of birth, how many babies you’ve had, use of contraceptives and not forgetting your individual hormones. During this time [bleeding] can be heavier or restart. This could happen if for example, you go for a walk or go shopping. If your bleeding increases, you have big clots or you have signs of infection such as smelly discharge, heavy bleeding, abdominal pain or feeling unwell, it’s really important that you seek urgent medical advice.

Q: What should you do if you are not breastfeeding and periods don’t return as expected after birth?

A: “Regular periods return at different times, each woman is unique. If you are breastfeeding, the hormones produced suppress ovulation, so periods mostly do not return until the baby starts to eat solid foods around six months. Periods may not return to a regular pattern until much later depending on the amount of breastfeeding. It’s important to note that although breastfeeding suppresses ovulation it cannot be relied upon to provide guaranteed contraception.

If you are not breastfeeding, periods usually return to a regular pattern by six weeks. If your periods do not return to normal then you should speak to your GP or practice nurse. You are very fertile in the period post birth, many women return at six weeks with a positive pregnancy test. So be sure to speak to your practice nurse or midwife about contraceptive choices. 

Q: Why is the first period after birth often heavier or lighter than previous periods?

A: “Periods after you have your baby may not be the same as before. They can be lighter, heavier or last longer these differences happen because of hormonal levels regulating.”

Q: Will I need to use different sanitary products after birth?

A: “It is advised that you use sanitary towels for up to six weeks postnatal. Thick maternity towels can be swapped for a more discreet pad once your bleeding has settled down. Generally it is not advised that you use tampons until after this time, as there is a greater risk of infection. You can find more on this here.”

Are you dreading your first period after birth? Perhaps you’ve been breastfeeding and are looking forward to the return of your cycle as you’re hoping to TTC soon? If you have any questions on the topic that we’ve not covered above, let us know in the comments.


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