It’s probably the last thing on your mind when you’ve just given birth but, actually, you really do need to know about your periods – and when they might come back.
Why? Because experts say that, once we start ovulating and menstruating again after having a baby, we’re often super-fertile (shock!). And, well, getting pregnant again may not be top of your to-do list right now…
How soon will my periods return then?
First things first: you need to know there is no dependable time frame for your periods to return after having a baby.
If you’re bottle-feeding, it’s likely to be about 4 to 10 weeks after the birth; if you’re breastfeeding, it might not happen until you stop breastfeeding exclusively or are only breastfeeding a couple of times a day (because your child’s now eating solid meals).
But you can’t depend on these timings – particularly if you are breastfeeding. As you’ll see from some of the comments in ‘What our mums said about periods after giving birth’, below, some breastfeeding mums were menstruating again as soon as 4 weeks after their baby was born.
Can I get pregnant even if my periods haven’t started again?
Yes. You don’t have to have had a menstrual bleed before you’re able to conceive again. In fact, by the time you have your first period after a baby, you may well have been fertile for a good 2 weeks.
So, if you have sex without contraception in this time – after you’ve started ovulating again but before that first monthly bleed is due – you can get pregnant. And, of course, there’s no cast-iron way of knowing exactly when you’ve started to ovulate again.
For this reason, expert midwife and health visitor Katie Hilton reckons a chat with your GP about contraception options after giving birth (even if you’re breastfeeding, just to be sure) is well worth scheduling sooner rather than later.
Katie says many of us find ourselves getting pregnant much sooner than we expected after having a baby – as we’re often not aware how super-fertile we can be once we start ovulating again, and we don’t always get around to using contraception soon enough.
But we all bleed after birth: is that not a period?
Straight after giving birth, you’ll find you have bleeding (called lochia) for around 2 to 3 weeks afterwards (though it can last for up to 6 weeks, in some cases). This isn’t the same as a period – although it can seem like a very heavy one – but is blood and tissue shed from your uterus lining, and it will taper off gradually.
If you’re still bleeding very heavily for several weeks after giving birth, though, you should see your GP.
And you should seek medical help if you have any smelly discharge in the days after the birth, as this could be a sign that not all the placenta was removed – and this can be pretty serious.
What our mums said about periods after giving birth
We asked our mums on Facebook and our forum to share their experiences of when their periods started. Here’s what they told us.
- “My periods started 10 months after giving birth, but I was still breastfeeding up until my baby was 13 months.” Jeanette L
- “My periods came back about 9 months after my first, 4 months after my second and 6 months after third – and they were all exclusively breastfed.” Jolene G
- “For me, it was 1 year, and I got pregnant straight after that first period. The exact same with my second bubba – only I didn’t get reg again. I’m still breastfeeding both.” Naomi D
- “My baby is 11 months and still no periods. Still breastfeeding, so that’s probably why.” Abbi H
- “4 weeks. Straight back to the full-blown nastiness.” Elisa B
- “4 weeks after. Was not expecting it all, as I was breastfeeding. At least it got it out of the way, I suppose!” Gemma B
- “Within a month of stopping breastfeeding – at around 9 months” Jennifer J
- “I’ve got 3 kids and I breastfed them all exclusively and on demand. Didn’t get period back until they were each nearly 2 years old” Kiri P.
- “4 months, and I was breastfeeding” Ellis C
- “With my 1st, I was breastfeeding and I didn’t have any periods at all before I fell pregnant with my 2nd when my 1st was 10 months old. My 2nd was 18 months old when I had my 1st period (also breastfeeding). I fell pregnant with my 3rd when my 2nd was 20 months. I’m currently feeding my 17 month old 3rd baby and I’ve still had no period! But I do still get the cramping and mood swings every now and then – lol!” Cez K
What was your experience?
When did your periods start after having a baby? Tell us in the comments below or over on Facebook