Many mothers worry about irregular periods or absent periods after giving birth; the reality is that every new mom has her own, and so there really is no normal! Some moms find that their period returns like clockwork within 4-8 weeks, while other moms experience no periods at all until they wean their baby from the breast.
Periods do tend to return faster in postpartum nonlactating women.
The postpartum period can be overwhelming enough, so try not to worry, and, remember, always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns at all.
What Causes Irregular Periods While You’re Breastfeeding?
Hormones, hormones, and more hormones! It’s all about hormone changes. Prolactin levels are high while you are breastfeeding, and prolactin also happens to suppress ovulation, which in turn stops, delays or generally causes havoc with your period!
When Should I Expect My Periods to Return When Breastfeeding?
This is really unique to each individual. Some breastfeeding mothers return to a normal cycle within 4-6 weeks after giving birth, but it’s also completely normal to have periods start until they are finished breastfeeding.
The important thing is to get used to what is normal for your menstrual cycle. If you become concerned, reach out to your doctor who can rule out other potential health conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids or an issue with the pituitary gland.
Many women take this time to switch to reusable period products, as they find these easier to use and less painful.
Is First Period After Baby Painful?
The fist postpartum period after giving birth can be painful, you may experience heavy bleeding and blood clots and mild contraction like pains.
You should find that these symptoms ease off and you settle back to a normal cycle, but if not, or if you are in severe pain or experiencing very heavy bleeding when your period starts, contact your doctor’s office for advice.
Always talk to your doctor if you are soaking a pad within an hour.
Are Irregular Periods Normal While Breastfeeding?
They can be, yes, particularly in the early postpartum period. Remember, your menstrual cycle had been thrown off course by pregnancy, labour, childbirth and now breastfeeding.
Prolactin, the hormone that fuels milk production, also happens to suppress ovulation and menstrual periods. While that first period or two after giving birth might be very erratic, most women find that hormonal changes settle down within a few months.
Does Menstruation Affect Breast Milk Production?
It is thought that milk supply might dip when you are menstruating. This is because the hormones that power your fertility tend to clash with those that are responsible for milk production. This should resolve itself within a few days of your cycle commencing.
Even with a dip in supply, you should still be producing enough milk to keep your infant happy. Allow them extra time at the breast and perhaps let them feed a little more often if you can. Remember that breastfeeding works on supply and demand, so nurse more, to produce more!
Will the Introduction of Solid Foods Affect My Period?
Many women report some changes in the 6-12 months postpartum period. Less demand for milk supply leads to less prolactin, which in turn can trigger the return of menstruation. If your baby is breastfeeding less frequently, do be prepared to see ovulation and menstruation return.
If you need more advice on when your baby is ready to wean, or even about baby led weaning, we’ve done a whole series to help you through the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to weaning.
Why Is My Baby Extra Fussy When I Am on My Period?
Often the first sign that your period will return is a fussy baby and sore nipples!
When you are back to having a regular period, you can learn to anticipate and do something to make this easier to deal with.
Nursing while on your period can be uncomfortable, try to let your nipples have some time exposed to the air, and do work with your baby to ensure that he is well latched. Try nursing in different positions to improve comfort levels, and remember that you will feel better soon!
Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
Pregnancy is definitely a possibility, which is why it’s so important to speak to your family planning nurse after having a baby.
It’s a myth that breastfeeding in itself can prevent pregnancy; if you wish to use breastfeeding amenorrhea as a form of birth control, you must be exclusively breastfeeding a baby under the age of 6 months, who feeds regularly day and night and doesn’t use a dummy or have any other food or milk.
As soon as your period returns, or if your baby starts to drop feeds, breastfeeding should no longer be used to prevent pregnancy.
I Want to Try for a Baby, Do I Need to Stop Nursing to Resume My Menstrual Cycle?
You have a few options- you could simply continue to wait for your first postpartum period; it’s highly likely this will resume within two years of giving birth.
You could choose to stop breastfeeding in order to trigger the return of periods, however, be aware that a sudden stop could cause mastitis or distress to your little one. Make sure that this is the right choice for your family- our handy guide on how to stop breastfeeding may help.
Another option is to simply gradually reduce feeds. As the gaps between feeds increase, and as your child begins to have solid foods, you should see your hormone levels settle.
Should I Be Worried That My Periods Haven’t Returned?
It can be very normal for it to take many months for periods to return, however, if you are worried, do just pick up the phone and speak to a doctor with relevant experience. Your OBGYN can provide an invaluable service at this time when you need a little extra reassurance.
It’s highly likely that your periods will return within 2 years of giving birth. When your periods do start, you will be wondering why you ever missed them!
Do I Need to Stop Breastfeeding to Make My Period Come Back?
Some mothers manage to establish a new pregnancy before even having a postpartum period, so not necessarily. Women will find that their body reacts in its own unique way, so while some have their periods resume immediately, others find that for as long as they breastfeed they won’t have periods. Don’t forget that breastfeeding has other benefits for you- check out our guide to the benefits of breastfeeding for moms.
Some moms find that if they breastfeed less frequently for a while their cycles resume. Speak to your family planning nurse if you would like more advice on periods while you breastfeed.
What Are My Birth Control Options When I Am Breastfeeding?
If you don’t want to get pregnant again, you should discuss birth control as soon as possible after giving birth, even if you are breastfeeding- you don’t need to wait for your first period as pregnancy can happen even in the first 6 weeks postpartum.
The most popular option for new mons is the hormonal birth controls, such as the pill, the coil or the implant. There are a number of breastfeeding-friendly options that won’t affect your ability to produce breast milk or reduce milk supply.
If you would like to take hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor to find the right one for you. You will not have to stop breastfeeding. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that the mini or progesterone-only pill is safe for breastfeeding women and will only pass into breast milk in tiny amounts.
Health and wellness professionals are there to help, so don’t be embarrassed to ask them your questions about what’s going on in your body, hormone balance or indeed your periods. Your body is nothing to be ashamed of!
The Bottom Line on Irregular Periods After Breastfeeding
Some women that their periods are delayed or don’t begin at all for as long as they breastfeed, while other women find that their first period returns very quickly after birth.
The first postpartum period can be heavy, but normal bleeding should resume within a few cycles. Any irregularity is due to the hormonal balance that regulates your period being thrown off by the prolactin that supports breastfeeding.
Periods might also be irregular, stopping and starting, showing up late, or disappearing for months at a time. This can be very normal while breastfeeding, but do take a test if you suspect pregnancy or consult your doctor if you are experiencing other symptoms. Other conditions such as hypothyroidism can cause irregular periods.
If you wish to prevent pregnancy, be sure to speak to a health professional as there are a number of contraceptive methods available for breastfeeding moms. These are considered safe as they pass through to milk in tiny amounts that will not affect your child.
This article was written by Sandra Baker – full time writer and the mother of four amazing kids (including twins!)
She’s also a breastfeeding counselor and has spent years helping new parents learn how to care for their children. When she’s not writing or caring for her children, Sandra likes to spend time reading and taking walks with her husband.