What Happens to Your Period After Pregnancy

For one thing, your flow may be different.

After nine months of pregnancy—and no period—it may be hard to remember what having one was like. And that's just fine because it's likely your period will feel different after pregnancy.

So, what happens when your period does come back after baby and breastfeeding?

Your period after pregnancy

People who have given birth produce a hormone called prolactin which directs the milk glands to make milk after birth. As long as a person breastfeeds, they'll continue to produce prolactin. High levels of the hormone prevent ovulation. 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 in Austin, Texas, told Health. So, you likely won't get your period if you're breastfeeding exclusively. Your period will return, on average, between six and nine months postpartum.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding will prevent ovulation and can be used as birth control when: you are not having any menstrual periods after delivering a baby, you are fully or nearly fully breastfeeding, and it has been fewer than six months after you delivered you baby. This method of birth control, called the lactation amenorrhea method (LAM), carries a small (2%) risk of pregnancy, according to the Office on Women's Health.

"Some women won't get their periods for six months after they wean the baby totally," Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine, said. If you don't get your period after six months, talk with your OB, Dr. Minkin said, adding that there's most likely nothing wrong but that it doesn't hurt to check.

If you aren't breastfeeding, ovulation can happen as early as four weeks postpartum, though this is the time when many healthcare providers recommend avoiding sex in order to give you enough time to heal after delivery, said Dr. Thoppil. According to the CDC, ovulation among nonbreastfeeding postpartum females can occur as early as 25 days postpartum, although fertile ovulation likely will not occur until at least 42 days postpartum.

Can I get pregnant before my period resumes?

Yes—and this is important to know, so we'll say it again: Yes! "Some women can get pregnant immediately, even with exclusive breastfeeding," said Dr. Minkin. You ovulate even before you get that first postpartum period, so you may be fertile and not know it. Every ob-gyn has a story about parents who come to their six-week postpartum visit and learn they're pregnant again. Dr. Thoppil pointed out that he and his sister are 10 months apart. (Do the math.)

If you don't want kids that close in age, talk to your ob-gyn about birth control, ideally before you have your baby. Planning early never hurts. There are even some types of birth control, like the progesterone injection, that you can get before leaving the hospital after giving birth. "[The shot] won't decrease milk production, and you won't get pregnant," Dr. Minkin said. The injection lasts for three months.

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How will my period change?

Your period can get better, stay the same, or even get worse. "The uterus can enlarge post-pregnancy, which can lead to more lining shed," said Dr. Thoppil. However, there are factors independent of pregnancy that can change your period. You may be using a different form of birth control (like an IUD) or a new-to-you hormonal pill, which can affect your flow. Or, if you're not using a hormonal method (say, your partner got a vasectomy or you're using condoms), your period may be different from when you were on birth control. Finally, periods often change as you get older, said Dr. Thoppil.

For some females, periods often become better, as cramps are less severe, said Dr. Minkin. And that's a good thing all around. Being sidelined with cramps is not an option now that you have an infant to look after.

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