Immediately following the birth of your baby, your blood loss will be bright red and slightly heavier than a normal period – though it shouldn’t exceed a sanitary pad every 4 hours. If it does, please refer to your midwife or doctor. The loss and blood flow will decrease over the next week, and the colour will alter to a paler red, then a brownish-red colour.
The discharge (also known as lochia) may then become yellow-white in colour before it ceases. You will notice an odour, which is strong but not offensive. While the blood flow should stop after a week or so, light blood loss may last for around 6 weeks after the birth and is not a cause for concern – it differs for each woman. If worried, contact your midwife or doctor for advice.
It’s important that you use sanitary pads and not tampons after the birth of your baby. Tampons obstruct the blood flow and can encourage the growth of bacteria, which could lead to infection. Make sure you change your pad every four hours (or more if required) as bacteria can build up quite quickly, particularly in lochia.
Some women prefer to use the thicker maternity pads initially, as they are more padded and protective. When you are ready, you can always switch to ultra thin pads.
You should see your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- A persistent red discharge
- Large blood clots
- Sudden bright blood loss
- Offensive discharge / odour, or,
- A tender uterus
The Return Of Your Period After Giving Birth
Of those who choose not to breastfeed, approximately 80% of women find their period has returned by ten weeks. Breastfeeding can delay menstruation and ovulation for around 20 weeks or more, however it is not uncommon to find your period returning sooner or much later than 20 weeks.
Every woman and her hormone levels are very unique, so its difficult to say when a period will recommence after childbirth. Some women find their period will return the very next month following birth and at the other end of the scale, some women wont have menstruated until well after twelve months. I found it to be even longer than this! I breastfed my first born until she was a little over two and then fell pregnant with baby number two. I didn’t get my period until my second born was 20 months, when all overnight feeds had stopped.
It’s also common to have heavier and/or irregular periods than normal when they do resume, for months on end. Some women find that their first periods after baby are so heavy that they use both pads and tampons due to the flow. I found this happened after my second born, so I saw a good friend of mine who is an acupuncturist and I was blown away when he was able to regulate my cycle in one month – no more heavy bleeding. Acupuncture is a great, natural and safe option for cycle regulation. Just make sure if you go down this path, you find an acupuncturist who has a special interest in this area. It’s not essential, but when I approached my old osteopath who also does acupuncture, I asked about cycle regulation and he looked uncomfortable – it’s usually a sports clinic and I guess he didn’t get many requests like that!
Find out when BellyBelly members found their period to return post-natally HERE, which includes a poll as well as a discussion. Please bear in mind though that the results are based on both breastfeeding mothers and bottle-feeding mothers, feeding at various intervals – so the results are a mix of all these scenarios.
It’s important to note that ovulation and menstruation doesn’t exclusively happen together – you may have your period without ovulation or you may ovulate and THEN get your first period shortly after – so you may not know that you are ovulating yet, which is how some women get caught out falling pregnant by surprise!
When Will I Ovulate Again After Giving Birth?
The chance that you will ovulate in the first six weeks post-birth is extremely low. When you see your obstetrician or midwife for your six week post-birth appointment, this is a good time to discuss starting contraceptives if you wish to do so.
When a baby breastfeeds, the sucking sends signals to the pituitary to release prolactin. If you breastfeed frequently enough so that there are high enough levels of prolactin (of which the threshold is unique for each woman), ovulation can be suppressed.
Exactly when you resume ovulating is hard to estimate. The longer you continue to breastfeed and the lesser feeds your baby has (as baby becomes older), this increases your chance of ovulation. For some women, they may not ovulate until they stop breastfeeding altogether.
A good way to find out if you might be ovulating while breastfeeding or in general is by observing your cervical mucus – see this article about cervical mucus observations. When my first born was two and still occasionally breastfed, I learnt about cervical mucus observations. One day soon after that, I noticed that I had highly fertile mucus, so I was able to spot that I was ovulating again. As a result, I was able to fall pregnant with my second child on that cycle. Of course, mucus observation can be used as a tool to avoid conception as well as achieving it. You can also use other tools to confirm ovulation, for example when you have fertile mucus, try using an ovulation prediction test kit or charting your temperatures.
Breastfeeding can be a good contraceptive (approximately 2% failure rate), as long as all of the following apply to you:
- Your baby is exclusively breastfed
- Baby is less than six months old
- If you have not yet had a normal menstrual period since birth
- Breastfeeds are no longer than 4-6 hours apart
- Avoid using dummies/pacifiers
Signs Of Fertility Returning After Giving Birth
It can be very tricky to pin point when you’re fertile again, however signs that your fertility is returning include:
- An increased sex drive – read why your libido is lower when breastfeeding
- Increased cervical mucus. Right after a normal period you are most infertile, and you may have noticed you are pretty dry. The mucus changes depending on the stage of cycle you are in and how fertile you are – dry being infertile, sticky mucus also infertile, wet slightly fertile – but egg white cervical mucus is fertile mucus (not to be confused with semen after having sex!). Read more about cervical mucus and fertility.