4 Things You Need to Know About Getting Your Period After a Pregnancy
For one, your flow might be different.
Leave it up to Chrissy Teigen to get straight with us about her period… or lack thereof.
“I truly have not had my period in so long that I forgot the L stood for Light and not Large. I was wondering why I had to change it every hour,” she tweeted recently.
In case you haven’t been following her, the model and cookbook author is mom to Luna (age 2) and Miles (three months). She’s been pregnant or breastfeeding for quite some time now, and it’s apparent in her tweet that her period was MIA for a while. And when it’s gone that long, well, you just might forget what it was like in the first place.
So what happens when your period does come back after a pregnancy and breastfeeding hiatus? We talked to ob-gyns to get the scoop on the return of your flow post-baby.
When will my period come back?
Well… you can’t really be sure. After pregnancy, levels of the hormone prolactin (which is associated with breastfeeding) have to drop first. “High levels of prolactin suppress the pulse-like release in brain hormones that orchestrate ovulation,” says John Thoppil, MD, an ob-gyn in Austin, Texas.
You likely won’t get your period while you're exclusively breastfeeding, Dr. Thoppil says, and your period will return, on average, between six and nine months postpartum. For breastfeeding to suppress egg production, you have to do it every four hours during the day and six hours at night, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is no longer effective after introducing solid foods, if your baby is sleeping more than six hours at night without eating, or if you’re pumping.
If you aren’t breastfeeding, ovulation can happen as early as four weeks postpartum, though this is the time when many doctors recommend avoiding sex in order to give you enough time to heal after delivery, says Dr. Thoppil. One review in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on non-breastfeeding women concluded that most don’t ovulate until six weeks postpartum, though some certainly do earlier.
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Will my period come back as soon as I stop breastfeeding?
Maybe. Maybe not. (Sorry, but there’s no real schedule.) “Some women won’t get their periods for six months after they wean the baby totally,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. If you don’t get your period after six months, talk to your OB, she says, adding that there’s most likely nothing wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Can I still get pregnant?
Yes–and this is important to know, so we’ll say it again: Yes! “Some women can get pregnant immediately, even with exclusive breastfeeding,” says 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 moms who come to their six-week postpartum visit and learn they’re pregnant again. Dr. Thoppil points 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 shot, that you can get before leaving the hospital after giving birth, Dr. Minkin says. “[The shot] won’t decrease milk production, and you won’t get pregnant,” she says. The injection lasts for three months.
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Will my period be different?
It might be. But here’s the rub: It can get better, stay the same, or even get worse. “The uterus can enlarge post-pregnancy, which can lead to more lining shed,” says 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, says Dr. Thoppil.
However, Dr. Minkin says that for some women periods often become better, as cramps are less severe. 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. They may be cute but, man, are they high maintenance.