What You Need to Know about Your First Postpartum Period

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Woman wondering about postpartum bleeding
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When your period returns often depends if you breastfeed or not. And just like your life after baby, you might find your periods after pregnancy are somewhat different.

A woman’s period will typically return about six to eight weeks after giving birth, if she is not breastfeeding. If she does breastfeed, the timing for a period to return can vary. Some women might not have a period the entire time they breastfeed. But for others, it might return after a couple of months, whether they are breastfeeding or not.

If your period does return quickly after giving birth and you had a vaginal delivery, your doctor or midwife might recommend that you avoid using tampons during your first menstruation post-baby. This is because your body is still healing, and tampons could potentially cause trauma. Your doctor or midwife will likely advise whether you can return to using tampons at your six-week postpartum checkup.

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Typically, women who are breastfeeding do not get their periods as quickly after giving birth. This has to do with your body’s hormones. The hormones needed to produce breast milk (known as prolactin) can suppress reproductive hormones. As a result, you do not ovulate or release an egg for fertilization. Without this process, you most likely won’t menstruate.

Some women use breastfeeding as a natural birth control method. Fewer than one out of 100 women annually will get pregnant

Woman wondering about postpartum bleeding
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if they are engaging in continuous breast-feeding. Even though breastfeeding might be a reliable method of birth control, it is not an absolute guarantee you will not get pregnant again.

The key here is continuous breastfeeding. Some of the hallmarks of continuous breastfeeding are:

  • Breastfeeding at least once every four hours during the day
  • Breastfeeding every six hours
  • Nursing your baby only at the breast and not through pumping milk

Breastfeeding that does not fit into these descriptions might not protect against another pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding and your period does return, you are no longer protected against getting pregnant.

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When you do start your period again, chances are the first period after delivery will not be like your periods before you got

Drawing picture of period
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pregnant. Your body is once again adjusting to menstruation. You may experience some of the following differences:

  • Cramping that might be stronger or lighter than usual
  • Small blood clots
  • Heavier flow
  • Flow that seems to stop and start

As you continue your cycle, these changes will likely decrease. Whether you delivered your baby vaginally or by cesarean delivery, you can expect some bleeding and vaginal discharge after giving birth. Your body continues to shed the blood and tissue that lined your uterus while you were pregnant. In the first few weeks, blood might be heavier and in clots. As the weeks go by, this blood gives away to vaginal discharge known as lochia. Lochia is bodily fluid that can appear clear to creamy white in color. This discharge can continue for about six weeks, which is about the time your period may return if you are not breast-feeding. If your discharge had the appearance of lochia, then bleeding returned, this is likely due to your period. It is not pregnancy-related bleeding.

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Some signs that your bleeding may be cause for concern include:

Picture of Lochia bleeding
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  • Soaking through more than one pad or tampon every hour
  • Bleeding that’s accompanied by sudden and severe pain
  • A sudden fever
  • Bleeding continuously for more than seven days

Contact your doctor or midwife if you experience these symptoms or anything else that concerns you related to your period. A return to your menstrual cycle is just one of the parts of recovery and returning to your pre-pregnancy body. In some women, menstruation may be delayed due to the hormone increases associated with breast-feeding. Breastfeeding as a form of contraception is not foolproof. Having a backup method, such as oral contraception or having a partner wear a condom, can help provide further protection. If anything seems out of the ordinary about your first period after pregnancy, contact your doctor or midwife immediately. Excess bleeding or indications of infection are especially concerning for a new mom. Listen to your body and play it safe.

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