What to Expect From Your First Period After Pregnancy

Julie Kirk
Mother playing face to face with her baby

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. Most 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 plan for contraceptives at your six week postpartum checkup.

Different Pregnancies Mean Different Periods

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. Therefore, it is not unusual for most nursing mothers to go without their period for three to six months or even longer. You are more likely to have no periods while breastfeeding if you're exclusively nursing and your baby does not use a pacifier.

Six Months Is Average

In most cases, the rule of thumb is that it's perfectly normal to wait 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.

Breastfeeding Is Not a Method of Birth Control

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.

Woman breastfeeding baby

Birth Control Options

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.

What Your First Period After Pregnancy Is Like

Your first period after pregnancy may 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.

Your First Period After Giving Birth: How Long Should It Last?

Your first period after having a baby will last an average of two to seven days. Most women consider their first period to be normal, and as it was prior to becoming pregnant. However, some women will experience heavier periods or lighter periods after childbirth. While it is not unusual for your periods to change after you have a baby, if your periods have become problematic and you are concerned, you should speak to your doctor.

Tampon Use After Pregnancy

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. However, you just need some time before tampons will fit and feel normal again. Doing Kegel exercises can also help with this issue; many experts say 10 Kegels three times per day is a good goal.

Give Yourself Time

It is always best to give yourself time and allow your body to recover after childbirth. However, if your periods resume and they are extremely heavy or prolonged, you're passing clots or you're in severe pain, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.

What to Expect From Your First Period After Pregnancy