Besides the joy of carrying a new life in your belly for nine months, another major perk of pregnancy is that your period is on an extended vacation! But when will it return and what can you expect after pregnancy? We asked the experts to answer some of your most pressing questions.
How soon will my menstrual cycle return?
After you’ve had your baby, your periods can start anytime from six to eight weeks, says specialist gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr TM Mokaya. It largely depends on if you’re breastfeeding exclusively, as prolactin (the hormone that’s responsible for breast milk production) suppresses ovulation. If you’re only breastfeeding, it’s possible that your menstrual cycle will come to a halt until you stop. This is your body’s way of preventing additional pregnancies while you still have a newborn. If you’re combining formula feeds with breastfeeding or you’re only breastfeeding at certain times of the day, your period may come and go and you’ll spot rather than have a heavy flow, explains Dr Mokaya.
Can I fall pregnant without having my period?
You can become fertile any time after the birth of your child, says Margaret Nofziger, author of A Cooperative Method of Natural Birth Control, but this is based on when your period returns. She explains that although you generally aren’t fertile for most of the time that you’re not having a period, you can’t predict exactly when your period will return. Ovulation takes place before your next period, which means that you have a fertile window before your period returns. A good tip is to know your body and watch carefully for that fertile mucus that comes before your first ovulation. Keep in mind that your hormones are very active at this time and they might give you ‘false alarms’ of ovulation. This usually happens for a month or two before your first real ovulation and period, warns Margaret. If you’re unsure whether you’re ovulating or not, consider purchasing an ovulation kit, to help you track it accurately.
Will I experience more or less pain and bleeding after childbirth?
In some cases, women have reported having little to no menstrual pain after birth with far less bleeding and overall discomfort, says Dr Mokaya. However, if you had pre-existing problems, such as uterine fibroids, polyps or endometriosis, then your period could be more painful and heavier after birth. You may also experience more PMS-related symptoms, including bloating, irritation and heightened emotions, leading up to your next period, according to researchers from Cleveland Clinic in the US. This is due to the massive hormonal changes that have taken place during and after pregnancy.
How will I know if something is wrong?
In most cases after birth, it’s normal to experience erratic periods and have some level of pain during ovulation and when you have your next period. It’s even OK if your first few periods are heavier than what they were before. However, Dr Mokaya says you should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Ongoing heavy, painful periods for more than a few months after birth
- No period at all, even after stopping breastfeeding
- Very irregular periods for more than a few months after birth
- Bright red bleeding that continues beyond the third day after birth.