First Period Postpartum

When will you have your first period postpartum?

Mother holding baby girl (0-3 months) after bath.
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After you've given birth you will bleed vaginally, whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean section. This is the site of your placenta healing and is known as lochia. This bleeding will last 6-8 weeks after you have had a baby and is not considered a return to your normal menstrual cycle nor is it considered your first period postpartum.

Your First Period Postpartum for Non-Breastfeeding Mothers

Once this bleeding has stopped, you may notice that your first period postpartum after you have a baby follows fairly shortly, usually within a few weeks, particularly if you are not breastfeeding.

About 70% of women who are not breastfeeding will have their period by 12 weeks postpartum.

"I had a small break in the bleeding," says Kate. "In fact, I wasn't quite sure if it was my period or just a return to the postpartum bleeding. The biggest sign for me was that it went back to being bright red like a normal period and was heavier than the end of the postpartum bleeding."

If you started out breastfeeding, you may see a slight delay in your periods. Or if you stop breastfeeding later in the first year, you can expect your period to return within 6-8 weeks of weaning.

Your First Period Postpartum for Breastfeeding Mothers

If you are nursing you will typically not have your normal period for many months, depending on the amount and frequency of nursing and the amount of supplemental feedings, if any. The risk of ovulating in the first six months after having a baby, while you are breastfeeding, is about 1-5%.

Some women use a method of lactational amenorrhea (LAM) as a means of birth control. This is a very specific method of birth control with strict rules. Not every breastfeeding mother can use this for birth control.

"We knew we weren't ready for another baby, and we didn't want to count on using breastfeeding as birth control," says Liza.

"It wasn't a big deal to use another method of birth control. We did condoms at first, then a diaphragm. It worked for us and my periods didn't return until just after my baby's birthday. It was a very nice break."

Once you have weaned, your period will usually follow within a month or two. You may also see your period as your baby begins to eat more solid foods or if you begin to supplement with formula or solids. This is normal as the amount of breastfeeding is less, meaning you are more likely to ovulate.

What is the first period like?

Some mothers find that their periods haven't really changed, while other find them less painful or heavy, and some find them more painful and heavier. Typically the only women who seek help are those who find that their periods are longer, heavier, or more painful. A trip to your doctor or midwife can help you figure out what your period has changed. It may be related to the method of birth control that you are using and not to giving birth at all.

Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Fifth Edition.

Van der Wijden C, Manion C. Lactational amenorrhoea method for family planning. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD001329. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001329.pub2

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