One of pregnancy’s perks is enjoying at least 9 months without your period. But what happens to your periods after your baby is born? Here’s a quick guide to how periods work and why they change during and after pregnancy.
Why do periods stop during pregnancy?
Each month, your body goes through a cycle of changes to prepare for a potential pregnancy. One of your ovaries releases an egg, hormones prepare the vagina and cervix to support possible sperm, and your womb or uterus thickens to nurture a possible baby. If you don’t become pregnant, on day 28 on average the cycle ends and the lining of your womb sheds — this blood is your period. If you have sex during a cycle and your egg meets a sperm, you can become pregnant. Throughout your pregnancy, your body retains the lining of your womb, which is why you stop getting your period during this time.
Can I bleed during pregnancy?
Even though your periods stop, you can still experience bleeding during pregnancy. This happens in almost 1 in 4 women for different reasons. Many women who bleed during pregnancy go on to deliver a healthy baby. However, you should immediately contact your doctor or midwife if you notice bleeding from your vagina at any time during your pregnancy.
In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fertilised egg planting itself in your womb may cause bleeding. This is known as implantation bleeding. It normally only lasts for a few days. However, bleeding during early pregnancy could signal that the fertilised egg has planted itself outside the womb — this is called an ectopic pregnancy. It could also signal a miscarriage.
In the later stages of pregnancy, vaginal bleeding can have many different causes.
Bleeding and periods — what can I expect after birth?
In the first few days after birth, it’s normal to have some period-like bleeding as your uterus contracts back to the size it was before pregnancy. Bleeding immediately after birth can be fairly heavy. It can also be bright red for the first couple of days, but gradually becomes a brownish colour before it stops after about 2 months. Bleeding might be heavier in the morning when you get up, after breastfeeding or after exercise.
Uncontrolled heavy bleeding after birth, called a postpartum haemorrhage, can be a serious concern.
If you've given birth more than 24 hours ago, contact your doctor or midwife immediately if you notice:
- blood that soaks more than one pad every 1 to 2 hours
- a sudden increase in blood or large clots
- blood which suddenly turns bright red in colour
- dizziness, weakness or trouble breathing
- anything else that seems unusual about your post-birth bleeding
When will my period return?
After birth, your periods will return at your body’s own pace. If you bottle feed your baby, you’ll tend to resume regular ovulation and your period sooner than if you exclusively breastfeed. If you choose to breastfeed exclusively, your first period may not return for several months — sometimes, it might not even return for 1 to 2 years if you keep breastfeeding. If you choose to bottle feeding or partially breastfeed your baby, your periods may return as soon as 3 weeks after childbirth.
Does breastfeeding affect my periods?
Not having your period while you're breastfeeding is known as lactational amenorrhea. How long it lasts depends on how often you breastfeed and when you introduce other food into your baby’s diet.
It’s hard to predict when your period will return after you give birth — and how you feed your baby is only one factor that influences this. However, once your body begins releasing eggs again, you can get pregnant even before you actually have your first period after giving birth. There are several safe contraception options you can consider while breastfeeding, but speak to your doctor for advice before resuming sexual activity.
Will a period affect the taste of my breastmilk?
Ovulation and menstruation mean hormonal changes are occurring in your body. These may affect both your breastmilk’s taste and supply. If you notice that your baby fusses at your breast when you have your period, it might just be a sign that it tastes different.
When is it OK to use tampons again after pregnancy?
It's best not to use tampons until after you attend the medical check that occurs 6 weeks after you give birth. If your normal periods return before this, use a sanitary pad until your doctor gives you advice.
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Last reviewed: July 2020