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Pregnancy & Birth

Your periods after birth

You may not be looking forward to the return of your periods. After months of being period free, you have to go back to the inconvenience of tampons or sanitary towels.

What blood loss should I expect after giving birth?
You will experience vaginal blood loss, known as lochia, which will be heavy at first and then start to ease off - although it can last for up to six weeks. If you are breastfeeding, your blood loss may increase a little each time you feed, as the hormones released during feeding cause your uterus (womb) to contract.
  • If your lochia smells unpleasant, or the loss hasn't reduced significantly within six weeks, you may have a vaginal infection, or an infection in your uterus caused by a fragment of placenta being left behind. If your lochia has reduced since the birth, but then changes colour from reddish brown to fresh, bright red, it could also be a sign of infection.
  • If you notice any of these symptoms, go to your doctor before your six-week check-up is due. She will examine you and may prescribe antibiotics to treat any infection, or refer you to a gynaecologist for further investigation.
When will my periods start again?
When this happens depends on two main factors you as an individual, and how you feed your baby. If you are bottlefeeding, you may have your first period within six weeks of the birth, but it could take 8-10 weeks to arrive. If you are breastfeeding, you'll probably be period-free for all of the time you are doing so regularly. This is because levels of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen, which are needed for ovulation and menstruation, drop sharply after birth and are kept low by the milk-producing hormone prolactin.
Will I get my regular cycle back?
If you are bottle feeding, your cycle may become regular within six months. But if you start your period while you are breastfeeding, it can take 12-18 months before your cycle settles into a routine. The length and frequency of each period is unlikely to change much from before you were pregnant.
Will my periods be heavier?
Although many women report that their blood loss changes after having children, other women notice no difference, and there is no medical evidence to suggest that there is any significant change.
Can I get pregnant before my periods return?
Yes, you can - you ovulate 14 days before any sign of a period. The earliest recorded ovulation after childbirth is 21 days, so if you are having sex, make sure that you use contraception. From 21 days after giving birth, you can use the combined pill if you are bottle feeding, and the progesterone-only pill (mini pill) if you are breastfeeding.

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