What to expect from your first period after birth

If there’s one perk to pregnancy—aside from the obvious one of getting a baby at the end of it—it’s that it blesses us with nine months of relief from menstruating. Although, joke’s on us when we’re then hit with the MOTHER of all bleeds for a few weeks after giving birth. (Fun fact: The first period after birth isn’t ‘technically’ a menstrual bleed. It’s called ‘lochia’, and it’s just your body replacing its uterine lining.)

If you’re wondering about what to expect from your first actual period after pregnancy (because sadly, yes it will return), you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn about when Aunt Flo will reappear postpartum, and how she may have changed since the last visit.

When do you get your first period after pregnancy?

There’s no knowing for sure, but typically your period will return anywhere from three weeks to 18 months after birth—or beyond! That’s quite a range, we know. How vague.

If you’re formula feeding from the get-go, your first period after birth could happen as soon as three weeks after you deliver your baby. If you’re breastfeeding or mix feeding, it’s likely to be longer than this. Three to six months, or more!

Personally, my period didn’t show up till well beyond 18 months postpartum. I was very suss, thinking it had gone forever. But alas, it returned when I weaned my son.

What you should know about your first period back after pregnancy

That first bleed doesn’t count

The postpartum bleeding that occurs straight after you give birth will last for six weeks or so. This first ‘period’ after pregnancy will be very heavy and bright red, and will gradually fade over time. 

It may also contain small blood clots. Because your body hasn’t ovulated yet, this isn’t true menstrual bleeding. It doesn’t count as a period, but you WILL need a good supply of heavy-duty period products on hand to deal with it. (Think: adult-sized nappies. Sexy times.)

Noticed brown blood in your first period after pregnancy? If it’s only a few weeks since you gave birth, this could still be lochia. It’s common for postpartum bleeding to come and go in those early weeks as your body’s hormones regulate. 

Your first period after birth might be different

Your menstrual cycle is expected to resume its normal format after you give birth. But some women find that their periods go completely haywire post-baby. 

Here are some common first period after pregnancy symptoms or anomalies you might experience:

Heavier or lighter bleeds 

If you find your first period after pregnancy very heavy (or more so than usual), it could be that you’ve forgotten how freakishly Vampire Diaries-esque your periods actually used to be. Or, more likely, that your hormones are still levelling out. One study also found that c-section births may lead to heavier menstrual flow.

A first period after pregnancy that’s lighter than usual could be due to birth control changes or, y’know, just hormone stuff. 

Painful or delightfully not-as-painful periods

If you have endometriosis, you could find that your symptoms get better or worse when you get your first period after birth. (We hope the former, obviously!) 

If you came off contraception to fall pregnant, this could be your first time experiencing your ‘true’ period. Perhaps your birth control was helping you control painful or heavy periods. In that case, they could be back.

More irregular menstruation cycles

It’s normal for your first period after birth to be weird AF. It may take a year or two to chill the hell out. Your oestrogen and progesterone levels may take a while to regulate, and even more so if you’re adjusting to a new weight/body size. (Your body changes after giving birth, so your period might too, right?)

Then again, if you’re closer to 40 than 30, you could be entering perimenopause and your hormones might be gearing up for that wild ride.

It might affect your breast milk

If you get your first period after pregnancy while breastfeeding still, it could make your milk supply drop, often around the mid-cycle point. It shouldn’t be too detrimental, but see a Lactation Consultant if it’s worrying you. Another factor that could upset your breastfeeding baby is that because menstruation changes your hormonal makeup, your breast milk could taste different. With any luck, it’s even more delicious for them.

Some people think that breastfeeding is a contraceptive, and there is some truth behind this. When you lactate your body produces prolactin, which suppresses ovulation. But please don’t let that fool you…

It’s possible to fall pregnant before you get your period back

You know what happens before your first period after birth? Your first ovulation after birth. And because you can’t track a menstruation cycle that hasn’t been menstruating, there’s no knowing when your body will decide to ovulate again! Sneaky.

Beware: You CAN fall pregnant in this grey zone. (Shoutout to my sister, who proved this to be true.) 

So when you’re feeling up to having sexy times again postpartum—all power to you—first talk to your doctor about your contraceptive options. If you’re not quite ready to add baby #2 to the mix, that is. Otherwise, go for it.

When to consult your doctor

  • If there are large clots in your first period after pregnancy, or you’re soaking through more than a pad per hour.

  • If you’re dizzy, light-headed or feeling sick during your first period after pregnancy. 

  • If something feels ‘off’ or you’re worried for any reason.

Clearly, there are huge variations in what to expect from your first period after birth, but if whatever’s going on for you is freaking you out, always get checked out by your GP.

Read next: How long does postpartum bleeding last?

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