I think one of my favorite things about pregnancy was not having my period. That’s not saying much, but to be free of tampons and pads was nice for a while. Of course, pregnancy has its own oddball things that make you excited for that phase to end.
Sooner or later, though, your period will come back, and for just about everyone, it will be irregular. This makes sense since you certainly can’t expect it to pick right again where it left off. After the birth of both of my daughters, it was about 6 months before my period returned. For other friends of mine, some reported 3 months while others were in line with me, and still, others were 9 months later.
Lots of factors here, so let me get down to your big questions about irregular periods after c-sections and just after giving birth in general.
Are Irregular Periods after Having a Baby Normal?
Yes, love! Totally normal! And that’s not just for those of us that had c-sections. This is the case for all women that give birth. Of course, when it comes back depends on several factors. There’s breastfeeding (I’ll get into that in more detail below), your height, and your weight. And if you’re on certain types of birth control, that plays a role too.
For those of you with irregular periods before you got pregnant, it’s likely going to continue on that path of irregularity once it returns too.
When Should I Expect my Period After a C-section?
Since there are many factors at play here, I can’t give you an exact date, and neither can your doctor. You should keep an eye out around 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth for those of you not breastfeeding. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, meaning that you’re not supplementing with formula, your period might not return for quite some time.
Do know, though, that for me with both children, my period showed itself about 6 months postpartum, and I was still breastfeeding. I wasn’t giving formula, but I was introducing solids.
Whether you have a c-section or vaginal delivery has nothing to do with how long it takes for your period to return. Breastfeeding will affect it, though, but as I said, some of us will get that period back even when breastfeeding while others (like my friend Mara) won’t get it back until they stop breastfeeding.
Why Does Breastfeeding Affect the Return of my Period?
It all boils down to one thing…hormones! That hormone that produces breastmilk, prolactin, suppresses your reproductive hormones. When that happens, your body isn’t ovulating or releasing eggs in hopes of fertilization. It’s highly unlikely to get your period when all this is going down, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe from pregnancy (I’ll get to that shortly, so keep reading).
What about my breast milk…does my period affect that?
I know some of you are worried about your breast milk changing when your period comes back. My breastfeeding coach told me it might change a little and that my baby might notice a change in composition. If my eldest did, she didn’t show it. She was still happy to keep eating. The same goes for my youngest.
The changes from your hormones are usually minute, something that is not very likely to keep your baby from drinking up, so don’t worry!
Can breastfeeding serve as effective birth control?
I remember my breastfeeding coach, Vivien, warning me all about safe sex after the baby. Not that I wanted my husband touching me before I healed (or even the couple of weeks after my postpartum checkup). She told me that it’s still possible to get pregnant even if you are breastfeeding exclusively.
In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals puts the stats at less than 1 out of 100. And while that’s low, do you want to be that less than 1? I sure didn’t. It’s best to wait until you heal up for a few years before trying for another baby after a c-section, so you want to be careful.
Breastfeeding can make it difficult to get pregnant, but not always. Remember, you’ll ovulate before your period starts just like you do when your cycle is regular. Protect yourself if you’re not ready to get pregnant again.
With my eldest, I was weaning her still when we tried for our youngest. The operative word is “tried.” We were ready to have another child, and we got pregnant on the first try with her.
If you are not ready or you don’t want more children, there are safe and effective ways to get on birth control without disrupting breastfeeding for your current little bundle. IUD, diaphragms, and condoms are considered safe options. Make sure you talk to your doctor about it and don’t even think about having sex after having that c-section until you’ve gotten the all-clear on that postpartum checkup.
For some of you,
You may be thinking of tubal ligation for birth control. That’s what they mean when they say, “getting your tubes tied.” Some women choose to have this done immediately following the c-section while they’re still on the surgery table. It keeps your eggs and your husband’s sperm from ever finding one another. It is permanent and practical, which is why you shouldn’t do it unless you are absolutely certain you do not want more children.
Getting your tubes tied doesn’t mean your period goes away forever, though. And it doesn’t mean it will be regular either. If your period was irregular before this, it will likely still be irregular afterward.
How Long Does It Take for Period to Regulate after Having a Baby?
Because your hormones are at work here, it can take time for your period to regulate. This further compounded with breastfeeding. Once it comes back, it might be on a 24-day cycle, while the next time, it could be 28 days. It may even be 35 days or more. It’s just full of surprises! The good news is that it will stabilize after a few months of the first period you get or after you entirely stop breastfeeding.
The first few postpartum periods will likely be different from your old period ways, but that doesn’t mean it will stay like this. Your body is still adjusting, so it’s prevalent for it to have some changes.
Things you might notice:
- Your cramps could be lighter or stronger than before baby
- There will be blood clots, generally small
- Your flow may be heavier
- It may even stop and start
- Pain may increase
- Cycle lengths may be irregular
I’ve always had a heavy period, so when I got mine back after my eldest, it seemed about the same or less with the flow and my cramps was horrible. After a few months, my period was about as annoying as I remembered it to be in my pre-baby days.
If you had endometriosis before you got pregnant, though, you might get lucky with lighter periods. And of course, if you have any other conditions or you notice anything unusual, it’s best to talk to your doctor. I’ll cover what’s considered unusual below.
Generally, though, if you’re in a bit more pain after you get that first period after having your baby, it’s likely the cause of uterine cramping, your hormones from breastfeeding, or the shedding of your uterine lining which might become larger post-pregnancy.
What Will my First Postpartum Period be like?
As I mentioned, it will likely be different than your periods before getting pregnant. These changes probably won’t last, though. Your body is continuing to stabilize after pregnancy, and these things will take time.
Remember, right after you have that baby, you’re going to bleed a bit. And that bleeding will give way over the weeks to lochia, which is a type of vaginal discharge. How much lochia you have, how long it lasts, and the color of it (sometimes creamy white and sometimes red) can all vary too.
It might be hard to tell if the lochia has given way to your first period postpartum. The odor might clue you in. Lochia is a bit sweet in smell as it contains your leftover tissues from the pregnancy. So, if it’s been about 6 to 8 weeks and you’re not fully breastfeeding, and that lochia disappeared, and you find blood, chances are you’re looking at your first period postpartum.
It’s wise to note it on the calendar and keep track of what you notice. It will likely be irregular for a few months down the line as your body gets back to normal after pregnancy. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic says that it’s very normal for your menstrual cycle to be anywhere from 21 to 35 days and for bleeding to range from 2 to 7 days. So, irregular to you but very typical from a medical standpoint.
When Should I Worry?
Because your first period after having a baby, whether by vaginal or c-section delivery, can be vastly different than what you’re used to, it’s hard to know what is considered worrisome. My friend Ali had light periods prior to having her twins. After that, she had heavy periods. It scared her at first, and while they balanced out, she made an appointment with her OB/GYN, who reassured her she was just fine. Sometimes, your body just changes.
Another friend of mine forever had lighter periods than she did before having her kids. As for me, mine worked out to be the same once my body adjusted back to normal.
Remember, if anything concerns you at all, you should call your doctor. To know what is worth worrying about though, if you notice any of the following during that first period after having your baby, you should phone the doctor immediately:
- Soaking through pads like crazy (they say if you go through more than one jumbo-sized pad per hour, that’s not normal)
- Sudden and severe pain comes with the bleeding
- You develop a fever out of the blue
- The bleeding is constant and carries on for more than a week
- Your blood clots are larger than a baseball
- You have discharge with a foul smell
- Headaches so severe you can’t do anything else
- Difficulty breathing
- Painful urination
None of those symptoms above are normal even as your body balances back out again. While blood clots are par for the course, gigantic ones that could double as a baseball are not.
One last thing about your first period after baby…
If you do happen to get your period back soon after having birth, it’s wise to avoid tampons during that period and perhaps the next couple of them. Speak to your doctor about this as your body is still healing. They definitely advise against them after vaginal deliveries, but your vagina will also be sensitive after a c-section.
Your doctor will tell you when using tampons is ok again after you start these irregular periods. And likely since your period will be a bit different than you’re used to, at least initially, you’ll want to stick to pads so you can keep watch over the flow, the clots, and any other changes.
Don’t forget to keep a journal so you can note any changes or, at the very least, be aware of when you had your last period. This will be especially helpful with family planning, whether you’re excited to get pregnant again or you want to avoid it!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.