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What To Expect When You're Expecting Your First Period Postpartum

June 19, 2024

New mother holding baby with a calendar in the background marking the postpartum period.

Discovering and embracing your new normal postpartum can be challenging. You’re trying to organize new schedules, manage changing relationships, and juggle more responsibilities. Your period is one more thing to fit into this new dynamic. Let’s go through what you can expect from your first period after pregnancy.

Key Takeaways

  • The timing of your first postpartum period varies and is influenced by factors such as breastfeeding and individual hormonal changes.
  • Your first postpartum period may be different in flow, duration, and discomfort compared to your pre-pregnancy periods.
  • It's important to distinguish between lochia and your menstrual period to avoid confusion and know when to seek medical advice.
  • Breastfeeding can impact your menstrual cycle and may cause changes in milk supply and feeding routines.
  • Emotional and psychological changes are common during the postpartum period, so having support systems and open communication with healthcare providers is crucial.

Timing of the First Postpartum Period

Calendar with a red circle on a date, surrounded by baby items, symbolizing the timing of the first postpartum period.

Factors Influencing the Return of Menstruation

The main factor affecting the timing of the first postpartum period is ovulation. Women who want to check whether they are ovulating can try using an ovulation predictor kit (OPK), which are available in pharmacies and online. Measuring basal body temperature every day can also help detect ovulation.

Breastfeeding and Menstrual Cycle

Breastfeeding significantly influences the return of menstruation. Women who breastfeed exclusively may experience a delay in the return of their menstrual cycle. This is due to the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for milk production and can suppress ovulation.

Typical Timeframes

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

  • 6 to 8 weeks after your baby is born, if you're exclusively formula feeding.
  • 4 to 8 weeks after you start supplementing breastfeeding with formula or introducing solids.
  • 7 to 8 months, or even longer, after you give birth if you're breastfeeding exclusively. Some women don't start having periods again until they stop breastfeeding.

It is important to note that every woman's body is different, and these timeframes can vary. If there are any concerns about the return of menstruation, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider.

Characteristics of the First Postpartum Period

New mother holding baby with a calendar marking the first postpartum period.

Changes in Flow and Duration

The first postpartum period can vary significantly from pre-pregnancy menstruation. Some women may experience a heavier and more prolonged flow, while others might notice a lighter and shorter period. It is essential to monitor these changes and consult a healthcare provider if anything seems unusual or concerning.

Cramping and Discomfort

Cramping and discomfort are common during the first postpartum period. These symptoms may be more intense than before pregnancy due to the uterus returning to its normal size. Over-the-counter pain relief and warm compresses can help alleviate some of the discomfort.

Presence of Blood Clots

The presence of blood clots during the first postpartum period is not uncommon. These clots can vary in size and frequency. However, if the clots are large or accompanied by heavy bleeding, it is advisable to seek medical attention. Wearing period underwear can provide additional comfort and protection during this time. 

Distinguishing Between Lochia and Menstruation

Definition and Duration of Lochia

Lochia is the discharge from the vagina after giving birth. It begins as heavy bleeding and may be dark red and full of clots. Over several days or weeks, the bleeding gets lighter, eventually turning pink, brown, and clear. It is common for women to experience some cramps when passing lochia because the uterus is contracting as it returns to its usual size.

Key Differences from Menstrual Blood

It's important to distinguish between your first menstrual period after birth and lochia, which is the vaginal discharge that begins shortly after giving birth. Lochia and your menstrual period appear similar: both generally start with dark or bright red blood and get lighter before stopping. However, lochia is usually heavier than a period and contains some blood and tissue that has lined your uterus. Additionally, lochia could last until four to six weeks after delivery, whereas menstrual bleeding typically lasts for a shorter duration. Bright red bleeding that occurs six or more weeks after delivery is more likely to be your period.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you're not sure whether you’re experiencing lochia or your period after pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider for clarification. Pregnancy-related bleeding can increase with increased exertion or activity. If your discharge increases with exertion and decreases when you rest, it’s more likely to be lochia. Both lochia and menstrual discharge have a musty odor. If you experience bright red bleeding beyond the first week postpartum, it is advisable to seek medical advice. For managing menstrual flow, consider using period underwear for comfort and convenience.

Impact of Postpartum Period on Breastfeeding

Hormonal Changes and Milk Supply

The return of menstruation postpartum can lead to significant hormonal changes that may affect milk supply. Prolactin levels, which are crucial for milk production, may decrease during menstruation. This can result in a temporary reduction in milk supply, which typically resolves after the period ends. However, the extent of this impact varies among individuals.

Managing Breastfeeding During Menstruation

Breastfeeding during menstruation can present unique challenges. Some mothers may notice that their babies become fussier or feed less effectively during this time. To manage these challenges, it is essential to maintain a consistent breastfeeding schedule and stay hydrated. Additionally, wearing comfortable and supportive period underwear can help manage any menstrual flow while breastfeeding.

Common Concerns and Solutions

Many mothers worry about the impact of their period on breastfeeding. Common concerns include changes in milk taste and supply. To address these issues, mothers can:

  • Monitor their baby's feeding patterns and weight gain.
  • Consult with a lactation consultant if they notice significant changes in milk supply or their baby's behavior.
  • Ensure they are consuming a balanced diet rich in nutrients to support both their own health and milk production.

In summary, while the postpartum period can bring about changes in breastfeeding, understanding these changes and implementing effective strategies can help mothers continue to breastfeed successfully.

Irregularities in the Postpartum Menstrual Cycle

New mother holding baby with a calendar in the background highlighting the menstrual cycle postpartum.

Common Irregularities

Especially in the months immediately after giving birth, it is common to have irregular periods. Women who are breastfeeding are more likely to notice irregular periods, as the hormones that support breastfeeding can cause the body to delay ovulation or ovulate infrequently. Even in women who are not breastfeeding, periods may be irregular, as the body takes time to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Over time, menstruation will return to its usual pattern. However, some women may have had irregular periods before pregnancy, such as those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.

When to Consult a Healthcare Provider

If a woman is concerned about irregular postpartum periods, it is best that they speak to a doctor to find the underlying cause. Measuring basal body temperature every day can also help detect ovulation. Just having one menstrual cycle after pregnancy does not mean your periods have returned. You may or may not have ovulated. You are more likely to ovulate if you have started to wean your child.

Long-term Expectations

When you do start your period again, chances are the first period after delivery won’t be like your periods before you got pregnant. Your body is once again adjusting to menstruation. You may experience some of the following differences:

  • cramping that might be stronger or lighter than usual
  • small blood clots
  • heavier flow
  • flow that seems to stop and start
  • increased pain
  • irregular cycle lengths

For managing these symptoms, some women find period underwear for women to be a comfortable and effective solution. 

Managing Symptoms of the First Postpartum Period

Pain Relief and Comfort Measures

Mildly painful postpartum periods can be caused by a combination of several factors. They include:

  • increased intensity of uterine cramping
  • the hormones of breastfeeding
  • the uterine cavity becoming larger after pregnancy, which means there’s more uterine lining to be shed during menstruation

When changes in a woman’s period are painful or otherwise troubling, it is best to speak to a doctor, who can help relieve the symptoms.

Hygiene and Sanitary Products

The first postpartum period may be heavier and more painful than those before pregnancy, or it may be lighter and easier. Some women have their first postpartum period shortly after lochia, while others may wait many months, especially if they are breastfeeding. For managing menstrual flow, consider using period underwear from Etrendix for comfort and reliability.

Monitoring and Recording Symptoms

Discovering and embracing your new normal postpartum can be challenging. You’re trying to organize new schedules, manage changing relationships, and juggle more responsibilities. Your period is one more thing to fit into this new dynamic. Keeping a record of your symptoms can help you and your healthcare provider understand your menstrual cycle better and address any concerns promptly.

Emotional and Psychological Aspects

New mother holding baby, surrounded by pastel colors and floral patterns, representing postpartum emotional and psychological aspects.

Mood Swings and Emotional Changes

The postpartum period is often accompanied by significant emotional changes. Hormonal fluctuations can lead to mood swings, making new mothers feel overwhelmed. Social support is essential in reducing the risk of postpartum psychosocial problems by providing a protective effect. This includes feeling understood and supported by family and friends.

Support Systems and Resources

Having a robust support system can make a significant difference in a new mother's emotional well-being. Support groups, both online and offline, can offer a sense of community and shared experience. Additionally, professional resources such as counseling and therapy can be invaluable.

Communicating with Healthcare Providers

Effective communication with healthcare providers is crucial for addressing emotional and psychological concerns. New mothers should feel comfortable discussing their feelings and any symptoms they may be experiencing. This can help in identifying any underlying issues that may require professional intervention.


Navigating the return of your menstrual cycle postpartum can be a complex and varied experience. Each individual's journey is unique, influenced by factors such as breastfeeding, hormonal changes, and overall health. Understanding what to expect can help alleviate some of the uncertainties and anxieties associated with this transition. It is crucial to monitor your menstrual health and consult healthcare providers when necessary to ensure a smooth and healthy postpartum recovery. Embrace this new phase with patience and care, knowing that your body is adjusting and healing in its own time.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should you expect your first period after giving birth?

The timing of your first postpartum period varies for each individual. It largely depends on factors such as whether or not you are breastfeeding. For some, it may return within a few weeks, while for others, it might take several months.

Will your first postpartum period be heavy?

It is common for the first postpartum period to be heavier than your pre-pregnancy periods. You may also experience stronger cramping and the presence of small blood clots.

Can you get pregnant before you get your first postpartum period?

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant before your first postpartum period. Ovulation can occur before menstruation resumes, so it is important to use contraception if you wish to avoid another pregnancy.

What is the difference between postpartum period and lochia?

Lochia is the vaginal discharge that occurs after childbirth, consisting of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. It typically lasts for about 4 to 6 weeks. In contrast, the postpartum period is your regular menstrual cycle resuming after childbirth.

Is it normal to have irregular periods after giving birth?

Yes, it is quite normal to experience irregular periods after giving birth. Your body is adjusting to the hormonal changes postpartum, and it may take a few cycles for your menstrual cycle to regularize.

When should you consult a healthcare provider about your postpartum period?

You should consult a healthcare provider if you experience extremely heavy bleeding, large blood clots, severe pain, or if your period has not returned after several months and you are not breastfeeding.

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