When will I get my first period after birth?

A woman sitting on the toilet with her shorts around her ankles.
Photo credit: / dusanpetkovic

As a general guideline, you can expect your first postpartum period:

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The main factor that affects how soon you'll start getting your period after birth again is whether or not you're breastfeeding, and, if so, how much. That's because the hormones your body produces when you're nursing, including prolactin and oxytocin, typically suppress ovulation. ("Typically" is the key word: Just because you're breastfeeding and not getting your period doesn't mean that you can't get pregnant. You can get pregnant while breastfeeding – so it's important to discuss contraception options with your healthcare provider when you're ready to start having sex again.)

Generally speaking, the less your baby nurses, the sooner your period will come back. If your baby sleeps through the night from an early age, or if you're supplementing with formula, your period may return sooner than it would if you were exclusively and frequently breastfeeding.

That said, breastfeeding's effects on a new mom's menstrual cycle can vary widely: There's no reliable way to predict exactly when you'll get your first period after pregnancy or what that period will be like, because every woman's body is different. Some women who breastfeed exclusively around the clock may start menstruating a month after giving birth, while others who supplement with formula may not get their period for several months.

There hasn’t been much research in this area, either: One study found that about one in three women get their periods back within six weeks of giving birth – and of those women, about two-thirds of them were breastfeeding exclusively.

You'll have some bleeding and discharge immediately after giving birth, which you may mistake for your first period, but this isn't your menstrual cycle. It's actually very normal postpartum bleeding called lochia, and it can linger for up to six to eight weeks.

Even though lochia can be messy, it's best that you don't use tampons for at least six weeks, until you've had your postpartum checkup and your provider has given you the okay to use them and have sex. There's a chance that tampons could introduce bacteria into your still-healing uterus or irritate any perineal tearing.

Will my postpartum period feel different?

It's normal if you find that your menstrual flow feels different now than it was before you gave birth. During those first few periods after pregnancy, you may notice that:

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  • Your flow is heavier than what you experienced before pregnancy. (That's because of your new enlarged uterine cavity, which has more lining to shed.)
  • You're passing small blood clots. Those are normal, but if you start seeing clots the size of a golf ball, let your healthcare provider know.
  • Your menstrual cycle is irregular. It can take up to a year for you to resume normal cycles again, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Everyone's postpartum period experience will be different; some women's menstrual cramps may return to normal, while some women may find that their period pain is less intense after pregnancy. One study found that some women who had c-sections experienced heavier, more painful periods after their deliveries.

Can getting your period while breastfeeding affect milk supply?

Yes, your menstrual cycle may affect your milk supply, but it’s generally minor and temporary. A few days before and during your period, hormone changes can cause a decreased milk supply and sore nipples, which might make nursing uncomfortable for you.

These changes are usually mild and last only a few days, but if you're nursing, you may find that your baby wants to breastfeed more because of the lower milk supply.

It's unlikely, but if problems with your supply continue after you've had your period, there are steps you can take to increase your milk supply.

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Can you get pregnant if you haven't gotten your first postpartum period yet?

Yes. It's unusual, but it is possible to get pregnant in as little as three weeks after giving birth, even if your periods haven't returned yet. (That said, most healthcare providers recommend that you wait at least four to six weeks before you have sex after birth to let your body heal.)

Regardless of whether or not you're breastfeeding, your body will release its first postpartum egg before you menstruate. If you don't start using birth control as soon as you start having sex again, there's a chance you can conceive, even before that first postpartum period arrives.

If you’re worried that you’ll forget a daily pill, or you're nervous about relying on a natural method of birth control like ovulation tracking, you may want to consider one of these longer-term options:

When to call your provider about your period after pregnancy

Your first periods after pregnancy may be different than before you had a baby. If you're ever concerned about them or wondering whether your situation is normal, reach out to your healthcare provider. The following symptoms also warrant a call:

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  • Ongoing irregular or very heavy periods. If your periods don't become more regular after a few months, or if you've had very heavy periods for more than two or three cycles (meaning you're soaking through a pad or tampon every hour for several hours in a row), let your healthcare provider know. They may want to check for uterine or hormonal issues.
  • You pass large clots. Anything bigger than a golf ball is a cause for concern.
  • Foul-smelling discharge. This could indicate bacterial vaginosis or a uterus infection.
  • Chills and/or a fever of more than 100.4. If this happens in the first few days following delivery, it could signal a potential uterus, kidney, or bladder infection.
  • A longer delay in your period returning if you're not breastfeeding. If you're formula-feeding and don't get your period by three months postpartum, talk to your OB or midwife. They may want to check for secondary amenorrhea (which is when women with previously normal cycles don't have a period for three months), pregnancy, or other issues.

Read more:

Best postpartum products

How long does postpartum recovery last?

Pelvic floor therapy: Help for uncomfortable postpartum symptoms  

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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

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Hallie Levine
Hallie Levine is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and wellness for more than 20 years. She lives with her three children in Fairfield, Connecticut.