Many new mothers find they have questions about their first period after pregnancy. There are several factors that affect the return of your menstrual cycle, but most women will experience their first period between four weeks and six months after childbirth.
When Can I Expect My Period?
It is hard to pinpoint when you can expect your menstrual cycle to return after giving birth. However, the average for women who are not breastfeeding is between six and eight weeks postpartum. Approximately 80% of non-nursing mothers will have their period by the time they are 10 weeks postpartum. For this reason, it is very common for your healthcare provider to ask about your plans for contraceptives at your six week postpartum checkup.
If this is not your first pregnancy, keep in mind that every pregnancy is different. Even if your period returned exactly six weeks after the birth of your first child, this does not mean your menstrual cycle will return at the same point with your second pregnancy.
Breastfeeding and Your Menstrual Cycle
One of the most important factors in the return of your menstrual cycle after childbirth is whether or not you're nursing your baby. When your body produces milk, your pituitary gland is producing prolactin to suppress ovarian function. A nursing mother could have no periods, a period every three months, or a period every six months. You are more likely to have no periods while breastfeeding if you're exclusively nursing and your baby does not use a pacifier.
In most cases, the rule of thumb is that it's perfectly normal to wait up until six months after you're finished breastfeeding for your menstrual cycle to return. If you haven't gotten your first period at this time, your doctor may prescribe a medication to jump start menstruation and ovulation.
However, please keep in mind that breastfeeding is not a surefire method for contraception. In order for breastfeeding to be most effective as a method of preventing pregnancy, your child must be less than six months old and you must be nursing every four to six hours. If you've had even one normal menstrual period since giving birth, it's quite possible you could become pregnant again.
If you're not ready to have another child, you need to be using a standard method of birth control whenever you have intercourse. Non-hormonal choices such as condoms or a diaphragm are preferable, although you can ask your doctor to prescribe a progestin only mini-pill if you wish.
About Your First Period after Pregnancy
Your first period after pregnancy is likely to be more painful than what you remember. Part of this is due to the hormonal changes in your body from pregnancy and part of it is just due to the fact you haven't been menstruating for quite some time. Your cycle will likely return to a more normal rhythm within a few months, although you should feel free to contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned. Occasional spotting within the first three to six months after your menstrual cycle returns is normal and does not indicate a problem.
For your first period after having your baby, it is normal for it to last longer than the five to seven days you may be accustomed too. Many women say their first cycle lasts two or three weeks, although you will likely want to speak to your healthcare provider if your cycle lasts much longer than this.
Another problem that women often have after pregnancy is adjusting to the use of tampons. Childbirth can weaken the vaginal muscles and cause your cervix to dip down further than normal. Doing Kegel exercises can help with this issue; many experts say 10 Kegels three times per day is a good goal.