After you give birth, it's safe to say that many things in your life change, including your body. And while your normal routine has turned upside down for the foreseeable future, you may be wondering when your reproductive system, especially your menstrual cycle, will return to its regularly scheduled programing. Eventually, your period should go back to whatever was "normal" for you pre-pregnancy, but there are a few reasons why having a baby can mess with your flow — besides the fact that you've been carrying around a fetus in your uterus for the past nine months.
Immediately after giving birth, it's normal to bleed for up to six weeks, says Rachel Cannon, MD, instructor in the department of Ob/Gyn at Boston University/Boston Medical Center. This is not a classic period. It's actually your body shedding the membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. "This bleeding can be light, [or it] can be as heavy as a normal period," Dr. Cannon says.
After that initial bloodshed, the amount of time that it takes for your period to come back depends on whether or not you're breastfeeding. When you breastfeed, the hormones that trigger ovulation are suppressed, so you typically won't have a period until you stop breastfeeding, Dr. Cannon says. For people who are exclusively breastfeeding (meaning no bottle feeding), it can take much longer for it to come back, even up to six months after delivery, she says. For people who are not breastfeeding, it's possible to ovulate as early as 25 days after giving birth, but on average, ovulation occurs 39 days after giving birth, Dr. Cannon says. "A period typically occurs two weeks after ovulation, so on average about eight weeks after delivery," she says.
For the first few months as your body returns to its baseline, your period might be heavier or more irregular, but it should eventually return to how it was pre-baby, Dr. Cannon says. If it doesn't come back after you've stopped breastfeeding, then it's a good idea to see a healthcare provider who can evaluate the situation, and rule out any complications, says Kelly Treder, MD, MPH, instructor in the department of Ob/Gyn at Boston University/Boston Medical Center.
There may also be other determining factors about when your period returns that aren't directly related to carrying a baby. For example, if you're going back on birth control after having a baby, that could change your period as well. But in time, you'll get used to this "new normal" along with all the other changes of motherhood.