Your body goes through so many changes after birthing your little one, and one of these can be a significant change in the way your menstrual cycle behaves.
No woman snaps back into a “normal” regular cycle, but some may get their first period sooner than others.
For mothers who aren’t breastfeeding, periods should return around 6-8 weeks after giving birth. Breastfeeding mothers, however, may not have their period until 9-18 months after due to breastfeeding suppressing the reproductive hormones needed for menstruation to occur.
Remember that “back to normal” isn’t universal — your period may return irregular, like clockwork, heavy, or light.
Strong hormones, stress levels, and breastfeeding are just some of the culprits behind a delayed or non-existent period.
To help you make sense of it all, we’ve looked at what you can expect from your first post-baby period, the cause of irregular postpartum periods, and when to call the doctor.
First Menstrual Period After Birth – What To Expect
The nature of your birthing experience, your decision to breastfeed or not, and birth control are all things that can impact your first post-baby period.
Let’s find out when periods normally return, what can delay them, and other concerns.
When Does Period Return After Birth?
If you are not breastfeeding, your period should typically return between 6 and 8 weeks after giving birth (we’ll explain why this is different for breastfeeding mothers below).
In some women, it’s not unheard of for their periods to return after just 2 weeks or up to 3 months after.
Bear in mind that it’s incredibly taxing for your body to create, grow, and deliver another human being, and all the hormonal changes that come with this need time to settle and readjust to a pre-pregnancy state.
When Do You Get Your Period After Birth While Breastfeeding?
Mothers who breastfeed normally resume their period around 9 to 18 months after giving birth, and for mothers who practice “exclusive breastfeeding” (i.e., your baby is receiving only breast milk day and night), their period often doesn’t return at all until the breastfeeding stops.
“The reason breastfeeding delays menstruation is because the hormone responsible for making breasts grow and produce milk — prolactin — suppresses your reproductive hormones,” explains holistic healthcare practitioner Dr. Debra Rose Wilson, “preventing ovulation or the release of an egg for fertilization.”
Periods After Cesarean Delivery
Following a C-section delivery, your period may, initially, be more painful and your cycle may be irregular for a short time as it takes a while for things to return to normal. It’s also perfectly normal to notice small blood clots too.
What To Expect With Your First Period After Birth
In truth, your first and second periods after giving birth will be a little different from what was normal for you before. As your postpartum body adjusts to menstruation again, you can expect to feel the following changes:
- Slightly stronger or lighter cramping than before
- Increased period pain — this is due to an increased amount of uterine lining needing to be shed (consisting of both blood and the mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy)
You can also expect to see some of the following changes in your postpartum period:
- Heavier flow
- A flow that appears to stop and start
- Irregular cycle lengths
- Small blood clots — if you happen to see large clots like the size of a golf ball, be sure to alert your doctor
First Period After Giving Birth – How Long Should It Last?
After giving birth, most women experience a period lasting between 2 and 7 days, according to OB/GYN Dr. Diane Young at the Cleveland Clinic.
3 Months Postpartum, No Period – Not Breastfeeding
If you are feeding with formula and haven’t had your period for 3 months after giving birth, it’s important to speak with your midwife or OB to identify any issues.
If your cycle was previously regular before pregnancy, your healthcare provider may check for secondary amenorrhea and prescribe hormonal medication.
4 Months Postpartum, No Period – Not Breastfeeding
As with no period after 3 months, no sign of your period returning after 4 months while formula feeding may point to secondary amenorrhea or other underlying issues such as stress, thyroid problems, and weight loss.
It could also mean you are pregnant again!
As always, please discuss your delayed period with your doctor to help identify the possible causes.
No Period After Baby – When To Worry
If you are not breastfeeding and your period has been absent for 3 months or more, speak to your doctor.
Often a temporary lifestyle change may be what’s needed (i.e., more help with the baby, less stress, etc.), so try not to leap to the assumption of a serious health issue.
Some women can find that their menstrual cycles are unsettled for a long time after giving birth (whether breastfeeding or not), and a huge cause of this is stress.
From the pregnancy and labor to the lack of sleep and the mountain of fresh responsibilities that come with your baby’s arrival, there’s no shortage of stress to play havoc with your body.
OB/GYN Dr. Swapna Kollikonda explains that “the stress hormone (cortisol) can lead to delayed periods or none at all, and if stress continues, you can go without a period for a long time.”
No Period After Giving Birth – Can I Get Pregnant?
Yes, you can get pregnant if you haven’t had your first postpartum period. While some women experience a sterile period in which they don’t ovulate during their first cycle, some women do ovulate.
For these women, senior editor at Baby Centre Lorna Marsh explains that “you’ll ovulate about 2 weeks before you have a period, meaning you’ll be fertile at this time but you won’t necessarily know it.”
Can the 2nd Period After Delivery Be Irregular or Late?
Yes, it’s possible for your second period after delivery to be irregular or late. In fact, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center, your period can take up to a year to become regular, no matter how reliable before your pregnancy.
Irregular Periods After Pregnancy – Causes
From conception onwards, your body experiences a whole host of physical and hormonal changes, and an irregular menstrual cycle can be one result of these continual changes. Here are some of the reasons behind it:
A lack of sleep, stress, and poor self-care can see some moms lose weight postpartum (and then there are moms who can’t wait to hit the gym and shed their baby weight).
Either way, this rapid weight loss sends your hormone levels into disarray, causing irregular cycles.
Unbalanced Diet and Poor Exercise
Menstruation is at its most reliable when you are consistent with your health — that means a healthy weight, reduced stress, regular movement, and a relatively healthy diet.
Pre-Pregnancy Health Conditions
If you faced irregular periods before pregnancy or suffered from conditions linked to irregular menstruation such as hypothyroidism, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), or endometriosis, then this trend is likely to continue post-pregnancy.
Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about these conditions and their effect before, during, and post-pregnancy with your doctor.
How Soon Can You Get Pregnant After Giving Birth While Breastfeeding?
It’s possible to get pregnant in as little as 3 weeks after giving birth, even if you are breastfeeding.
If you don’t wish to become pregnant again, it’s important to use some form of contraception from the very first time you have sex after giving birth (and onwards).
Do Periods Get Worse After Having a Baby?
Periods can improve for some women and worsen for others after giving birth. Unfortunately for some women, postpartum periods can be longer, heavier, or more painful than before.
This can be due to “a large uterine cavity causing more shedding to occur” according to OB/GYN Dr. Diane Young.
To sum up, periods will usually return between 6 and 8 weeks after giving birth and may take even longer if you’re under extreme stress or if you’re breastfeeding (due to the reproduction-suppressing hormone prolactin).
Women can find that their post-baby period looks and feels better, worse, or much the same as before. Consider what was normal for you pre-pregnancy and don’t hesitate to voice any concerns you have with your healthcare provider.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.