Why Do I Have Irregular Periods After Birth?
If you’re experiencing irregular periods after pregnancy, you’re not alone. Read about the causes of this common condition, and learn when your menstruation should return to normal.
Arguably one of the best parts of pregnancy: your period disappears for nine whole months! Once menstruation finally returns, though, it will be confusing and unpredictable—and that's totally normal. Here’s everything you need to know about irregular periods after birth.
When Will I Get My Period After Birth?
In the postpartum phase, you’ll experience a vaginal discharge of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. This discharge, known as lochia, starts off heavy and bright red. Within the next six to eight weeks, it will lighten, become more irregular, and turn dark brown/yellow before tapering off.
Although lochia resembles a period—and you'll need to wear a pad to control the blood flow—it’s not the same thing as menstruation. Your actual period won’t return for a few weeks or months after giving birth. The timeline largely depends on whether or not you’re breastfeeding.
If you're not breastfeeding... your period will probably return four to eight weeks after childbirth, according to Amina White, M.D., clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
If you are breastfeeding... you'll likely get your period much later, since prolactin (a hormone for breast-milk production) wards off ovulation. Menstruation may take weeks or months to return. Irregular periods while breastfeeding are especially common if you’re doing a combination of formula-feeding and breastfeeding.
Irregular Periods After Pregnancy
When menstruation does return, it might not look the same as before. Your cycle could be shorter, longer, lighter, heavier, or more crampy—and all of these changes are normal, says Dr. White. One of the most common complaints, though, is about irregular periods after birth as your hormones return to normal. So don’t worry if your cycle switches from 24 days to 35 days between months—your body is simply regulating itself.
Tell your doctor if your period becomes super heavy (you need to change your pad once an hour), lasts longer than seven days, or contains clots larger than a quarter. Also let him/her know if you skip a period after menstruation begins, or if you have spotting between periods. These symptoms may indicate infection, fibroids, polyps, a thyroid dysfunction, or other issues.
Can I Get Pregnant with Irregular Periods After Birth?
It’s important to remember that a woman can ovulate without having a period, since ovulation occurs mid-way through a cycle. This puts a woman at risk for getting pregnant soon after delivery. Any unprotected intercourse could result in pregnancy—even if you’re having irregular periods. In fact, Dr. Pryor always tells the story of a patient who was already pregnant with twins at her eight-week postpartum visit.