The return of your period
When a woman who has given birth does not breastfeed her baby, the return of her period will usually happen around 5 to seven weeks after delivery. The periods can be irregular and heavier than before childbirth at first, while your body gets back to normal after giving birth, which may take up to a year.
The bleeding that happens right after birth, that last 7 to ten days, and completely disappears after 2 to three weeks are known as « lochia ». The bleeding is red the first few days, then pink, pale brown and becomes clearer until they stop. This bleeding is distinct from your period since they don't mean you are fertile.
If you are breastfeeding exclusively and for a long time, you should not get your period during the entire time. Taking into account the intensity of your nursing, your periods should not return until at least 6 to eight weeks after you stop breastfeeding, and may even occur later, 3 to six months after you stop lactating. There are still 7 % to 20 % of women who experience an early return of their periods, even if they are breastfeeding exclusively.
If you practice mixed breastfeeding (alternating between nursing and giving infant formula) or if you only breastfed for a short time, your period should return between the 6th and 12th week after delivery. This doesn't mean you have to stop breastfeeding though! However, you might notice a slight decrease in milk production the days that precede your period. Don't be alarmed, it's possible that your first period might last longer and be heavier than what you are used to.
When to start birth control?
90 % of women don't ovulate before their first period after giving birth. However, 10 % of women can actually ovulate without having their first period and it's difficult to predict when a woman will have her ovulation. For that reason, you might consider a form of contraception. It's important that you consult your midwife or doctor before using a prescribed contraception from before your pregnancy so that your health-care professional can help you choose the right method for you and tell you when to start it.
- For moms who don't breastfeed: It's recommended to avoid the birth control pill until your first period. In the meantime, you can use other methods like condoms or spermicides. In the case of an intrauterine device (IUD), doctors advise to wait until your uterus has returned to its original shape before getting one installed.
- For nursing moms: Only the mini-pills that contain progesterone are permitted during the time that you are nursing your baby. This pill may be prescribed starting 10 days after you give birth. It can cause a decrease in milk production and light bleeding. If you choose this form of contraception, you must take it at regular intervals for it to be effective.