Periods after birth

When do periods return after the birth, and what will they be like?

One of the treats of pregnancy (as well the anticipation of a lovely baby, of course!) is that you don’t have periods for months on end. However, you can’t put them off forever, and when they return will probably be affected by how you are feeding your child.

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If you are breastfeeding
Although there is no hard and fast rule, women who breastfeed tend to find that their periods do not return as soon as those who are not breastfeeding.
Anytime after about 13 weeks, you may see the return of your periods. Some women may find they reappear earlier than this, but for a woman who is exclusively feeding, at least three months is more likely.
Even if you continue to breastfeed exclusively, you are likely to see your periods return after six to eight months, though it can take longer.
Some women find that if they begin to drop feeds – say, if they go back to work and want only to feed at night and first thing – then their periods will be prompted to return at that time.

If you are not breastfeeding
Generally speaking, if you are not breastfeeding, your periods are more likely to return sooner. Even if you are not ovulating yet, you may see your periods return sometime between four and ten weeks.

Other factors affecting the return of periods
It might be the case that, if you are overweight, your oestrogen levels prompt a more swift return of your periods. (However, this is not a hard and fast rule – I am pretty overweight, for example, and my periods did not return for nine months with my first child, even though I started to drop feeds at five months.)
Tiredness, stress and other factors which can routinely affect any woman’s periods may affect when your periods either return or drop-out from time to time.
If you had irregular periods before you got pregnant, this will probably mean you will return to this pattern after the birth.

Some women find their periods, once they have settled down, are more or less regular than before, that they are less painful or that they are more or less heavy. This will be partly due to the pregnancy experience and its impact on the uterus and hormones. However, do bear in mind that periods often change at different ages in your life, too. A change is not neccessarily a cause for concern unless you are experiencing pain.

Lack of periods and another pregnancy
When you leave the hospital or home midwife care, you should expect a discussion about birth control.
Getting pregnant too quickly after a birth isn’t great for your body or its nutritional reserves, so it is good to practice some form of birth control for the first few months at least.
A lack of periods, or exclusive breastfeeding, are not hard and fast forms of contraception. Though it is true that, even if you are bleeding, there is not neccessarily an ovulation, it is better not to take chances.

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Bleeding after the birth
Straight after the birth, you can expect to bleed for a few weeks (possibly as long as 10 or 12 weeks), while your uterus recovers. This bleeding is called ‘lochia’.
If you have a caesarian, you may find this bleeding goes on for longer.
Do not use tampons during this time, but sanitary towels.
This bleeding can get a little heavier even if it has lightened up previously. This can be caused if you are beginning to do more strenuous activity, so take this heavier bleeding as a prompt to rest up.
There should be no cause for alarm, though bleeding with clots or tissue in it, odourous clots, a raised temperature, or extreme fatigue, are not normal and should any of these symptoms also occur, do see your GP as soon as you can.

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