First Period After Birth: When and What to Expect

Childbirth is one of the most gratifying experiences a woman can have. The very process of going from a non-pregnant body to a fully pregnant woman is awe-inspiring and wondrous. After childbirth, the body has to revert to the non-pregnant state and many changes will occur. For example, the menstruation cycle has to return. When does the first period after delivery occur? This is just one of the many questions that arise after childbirth.

When Will I Have My First Period After Birth?

Getting your period after birth depends greatly on whether you are breastfeeding or not. Most women who choose not to breastfeed often start their first period within the first ten weeks. However, hormone levels will normalize after childbirth and different women normalize at different rates.

Normally, breastfeeding delays the first period. The sucking action of the baby activates a hormone called prolactin in your pituitary gland which is able to suppress ovulation. However, the level of suppression is different for each woman. It is roughly dependent upon the frequency of the feeds. The less frequent of the feeds, the more likely that you could be ovulating and having your period sooner. Therefore, in some lactating women, the first period may occur the very next month whilst in others, it may occur after twelve months. For example: a bottle-feeding mom will have first period 7-9 weeks after birth, but 6 months or later if breastfeeding. 

HERE's more on period after birth and factors that influence the time that you experience period. 

What to Expect in the First Period After Birth?

1. It Could Be Heavier

The first period is often heavier than your normal menstrual flow. It is normal if you see the presence of blood clots in your period. But if the blood clots persist for a few subsequent cycles, see your doctor.

2. It Could Be Irregular

The first few periods after delivery could be irregular. However, if your menstrual cycle does not become regular after a few months, see your doctor to check for hormonal imbalances or uterine problems.

3. Spotting and Cramps

Infrequent spotting in your first few cycles is normal. Cramps may be either stronger or lighter than what you’re used to.

See Your Doctor

  • If you develop a fever
  • When your flow is longer than seven days
  • If you experience severe and sudden pain with the bleeding
  • If you have very heavy bleeding that is characterized by soaking one pad/tampon every hour

Fertility and Birth Control After Birth

It is usually improbable that you will ovulate within the first six weeks after childbirth. When you have your doctor’s check-up at six weeks after childbirth, it is wise to discuss a method of birth control even if you don't have your first period after birth.

Contraception for Nursing Mums

Many women depend on breastfeeding as a form of contraception. This has a failure rate of roughly 2%. Using breastfeeding exclusively as a means of birth control is also termed as Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM). In some women, ovulation doesn’t commence until after breastfeeding has completely stopped. It is a reliable form of contraception provided:

  • You breastfeed frequently-feeds that are no longer than 4-6 hours apart.
  • Your infant is exclusively breastfed-not given any supplementary formula feeds.
  • Your baby is under 6 months old.
  • You have not yet had a normal menstrual cycle.

Besides, non-hormonal choices are preferred such as a diaphragm or condoms. Some women prefer a progestin-only contraceptive pill (known as the mini-pill) or Depo-Provera (a once-every-three-month injection). Talk to your doctor about your options.

Contraception for Non-Nursing Mums

It is usually recommended that mothers who don't breastfeed start contraceptive pills after their periods have started again. A return of your period is usually associated with a return of ovulation. However, in the early days of your first period after birth, it is possible to ovulate without a period or vice versa. Some women have become pregnant unexpectedly during this time. Therefore, barrier methods like condoms are advised as soon as you start having sex again. For an intra-uterine device (IUD) to be inserted, you will have to wait until your uterus has completely recovered and attained its original pre-pregnancy shape.

How Do You Know If You Are Ovulating?

  • Test Kits

There are test kits available commercially that can confirm ovulation.

  • Basal Body Temperature

Plot your body temperature during your cycle and you can see your temperature spike slightly when you are ovulating.

  • Cervical Mucus

If your cervical mucus has an “egg-white” consistency and can be stretched about an inch or two, you’re most probably ovulating.

  • Increase of Libido

Breastfeeding decreases your sex drive because your estrogen levels are too low and prolactin levels are higher. When the levels of these hormones normalize, your libido returns.

If you are any doubt about your first period after birth or even if your menstrual cycle doesn’t resume when expected, see your medical practitioner to rule out any other complications.

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