How Your Period Changes After Pregnancy

For one thing, your flow may be different.

Pregnancy causes many physical changes to the body. For example, your period goes through serious changes during pregnancy. Menstrual bleeding stops for nine months and longer, depending if you breastfeed and for how long.

So, what happens when your period does come back after pregnancy and breastfeeding? Health spoke to experts who weighed in on what you can expect of your period after pregnancy.

The Return of Your Period After Pregnancy

When your periods resume after giving birth depends on whether you're breastfeeding. Here's what you may expect concerning ovulating and menstrual bleeding after pregnancy.

If You Are Breastfeeding

People who have given birth produce the hormone prolactin, which directs the milk glands to make milk after birth. As long as a person breastfeeds, they'll continue to make prolactin. High levels of the hormone prevent ovulation. And if you don't ovulate, you don't get your period.

"[Prolactin] suppresses the pulse-like release in brain hormones that orchestrate ovulation," John Thoppil, MD, an OB-GYN based in Austin, Texas, told Health. So, you likely won't get your period if you're exclusively breastfeeding. Your period will return, on average, between six and nine months postpartum.

Breastfeeding can prevent ovulation, so you may use it as a birth control method if you're:

  • Not having any menstrual bleeding after delivering a baby
  • Are fully or nearly fully breastfeeding
  • Are less than six months postpartum 

Breastfeeding as a method of birth control, called the lactation amenorrhea method (LAM), carries a 2% risk of pregnancy.

"Some women won't get their periods for six months after they wean the baby totally," Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine, told Health. Consult a healthcare provider if you don't get your period after six months. There's most likely nothing wrong, but it doesn't hurt to check, said Dr. Minkin.

If You Are Not Breastfeeding

If you aren't breastfeeding, ovulation can happen as early as four weeks postpartum. Though, many healthcare providers recommend avoiding sex during that time. In the weeks after giving birth, avoiding sex gives you enough time to heal after delivery, said Dr. Thoppil. 

Ovulation among nonbreastfeeding postpartum people can occur as early as 25 days postpartum. Although, fertile ovulation likely will not occur until at least 42 days postpartum.

What Will Periods Look Like Postpartum?

When periods return, they may be quite different from before your pregnancy. Your period can improve, stay the same, or even worsen.

Some postpartum people will have heavier, longer, or more painful periods than before. A larger uterine cavity after childbirth causes more endometrium, the tissue lining inside the uterus, to shed. 

"The uterus can enlarge post-pregnancy, which can lead to more lining shed," said Dr. Thoppil.

Others will have light periods or no periods at all. Two rare complications cause that to happen: Sheehan's and Asherman's syndrome. Sheehan's syndrome occurs when severe blood loss or low blood pressure damages the pituitary gland. And Asherman's syndrome results from scar tissue in the uterus lining.

But there are factors besides pregnancy that can change your period. For example, new methods of birth control can affect your flow. You may use a different form of birth control, like an IUD or a birth control pill. 

Or if you're not using a hormonal method—say, your partner got a vasectomy, or you're using condoms—your period may differ from when you were on birth control.

Also, periods can change as you age, said Dr. Thoppil. For some people, cramps are less severe, added Dr. Minkin. And being sidelined with cramps may not be an option now that you have a baby to look after.

Can I Get Pregnant Before My Period Resumes?

Yes, getting pregnant before you resume regular menstrual bleeding is possible.

"Some women can get pregnant immediately, even with exclusive breastfeeding," said Dr. Minkin. 

You ovulate before you get that first postpartum period. So, you may be fertile and not know it. Many OB-GYNs have stories about parents who visit their six-week postpartum visit and learn they're pregnant again. 

If you don't want children close in age, talk to an OB-GYN about birth control, ideally before you give birth. Planning early never hurts. There are even some types of birth control, like progesterone injections, that you can get before leaving the hospital after giving birth. 

"[The shot] won't decrease milk production, and you won't get pregnant," said Dr. Minkin. Progesterone injections last about three months.

A Quick Review

While your period might take up to nine months to return, it may be different—especially if you're breastfeeding. But in some cases, your period may become easier to handle than before your pregnancy. If you have any questions about how pregnancy may affect your period, reach out to a healthcare provider.

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  2. Office on Women's Health. Birth control methods.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use, 2013: Adapted from the World Health Organization selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use, 2nd edition.

  4. Lord M, Sahni M. Secondary Amenorrhea. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; July 18, 2022.

  5. National Library of Medicine. Birth control - slow release methods.

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