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Dr Anne Henderson, Consultant Gynaecologist
Now that your baby has arrived, you may feel like your life and your body will never be the same again. As you adapt to all these changes, you are probably wondering what to expect as you anticipate the return of your period.
After giving birth, how long should your first period last?
How long after giving birth do you get a period?
At what point do you need to worry if you have no period after giving birth?
Your period will probably begin again six to eight weeks after you give birth, if you are not breastfeeding. If you’ve had a vaginal birth, your doctor may recommend you initially use pads instead of tampons when they do return.
If you are breastfeeding your child, it is hard to tell how long after giving birth you will have a period. It may not return until you wean your baby or it may begin again in a few months. The hormone that produces breast milk suppresses the production of productive hormones; if you are not ovulating, then you are not menstruating. In fact, only 20 percent of breastfeeding mothers get their periods back within six months.
As your child relies less on breast milk and more on solid food, your body will begin to ovulate again as your hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels.
During your first period after the birth of your baby, you and your child may notice a difference in your breast milk. The changes in hormones may lead to you producing less milk, and the milk may also taste different, which may catch your baby off-guard. However, there is no need to worry about these adjustments, as you and your baby will adapt.
Some new mothers are surprised to find themselves expecting another child even before their first period postpartum. While breastfeeding suppresses reproductive hormones, you can still get pregnant the first time you ovulate prior to your first period postpartum.
Every woman’s body is different, so how her body adjusts is highly personal. Doctors have seen women with heavy periods experience lighter bleeding during their first period postpartum, as well as the opposite, however it is more common for women’s periods to get heavier and longer after each pregnancy.
Your endometrial lining changes after each birth, which may affect your period postpartum. Since some contraceptive methods – such as pills and IUDs – thin this lining, you may experience a heavier flow in your first period after the birth of your baby.
For women whose periods used to run like clockwork, it may take months to return to a regular routine. Expect the time between periods to vary until your hormones settle, especially if you are breastfeeding.
You are probably wondering how long your first period after giving birth should last. When you do get your first period postpartum, you may experience cramping as your uterus shrinks back to a smaller size and its lining has more cells to shed. This should decrease each month as your body recuperates.
Expect to see blood and vaginal discharge in the weeks after giving birth as your body releases fluids it no longer needs to protect your baby. They will be red at first, but they should lighten over time. This is called the ‘lochia’ and reflects the final shedding of the placenta and any pregnancy tissue within the uterus which has not been shed at birth – this is normal and nothing to be worried about. If you see blood six weeks or more after birth, it is likely to be your first period postpartum.
Speak to your doctor if your first periods after giving birth remain erratic. While it is expected for those first periods to be delayed, you may also skip some or find they now come further apart.
Disclaimer: This information aims to answer some of your questions or concerns. If you are worried about your health, talk to your family doctor or your gynecologist for professional medical advice.