Postpartum menstruation, especially the first period after birth, can be different that your normal menstruation prior to pregnancy. It can start anywhere from a few weeks after giving birth to a few years, and the first period after birth may be different in flow and duration than your periods were in the past. While most women's cycles eventually go back to normal, your period may permanently change after having a child. Even before you start postpartum menstruation, you can become pregnant.
The majority of women start menstruation between one and three months after giving birth, although some women may not experience a period after birth for a few years. This depends on both your individual body chemistry and whether you are feeding your baby formula or breast milk. Women who formula feed often start menstruation sooner than breastfeeding moms. This is because breastfeeding suppresses ovulation; basically, it is nature's way of spacing out children.
Formula feeding mothers tend to have their first menstrual cycle five to six weeks after having their baby. The majority of breastfeeding moms start postpartum menstruation when they begin introducing other food sources, such as solids, to their baby. Others start their period as soon as two months postpartum or as long as six months after completely weaning their child. No matter when your menstrual cycle starts up again, your period will likely be different than it was before, especially your first one.
The first period after birth is often heavier than normal. You may pass blood clots, and your period can last for over a week. Because your body is not used to having a menstrual cycle, you may experience more cramping than in the past. While all of this is normal, if the period lasts for more than eight days or you are passing blood clots that seem excessively large, let your doctor know. This could be an indication that your body has retained tissue from the placenta, which can cause an infection, or that you are experiencing a molar pregnancy.
After your first period, each additional period will likely decrease in duration and heaviness until you are back to whatever was normal for you. Postpartum menstruation can also be different than pre-pregnancy. Your period may be lighter and less painful than it has been in the past. In rare cases, you may experience heavier periods and more cramping.
If you do not want to become pregnant, you should use some sort of birth control, even if you have yet to have your first period after birth. While less likely, it is possible to become pregnant before you start postpartum menstruation. The type of birth control used depends on your specific health issues and whether you are formula feeding or breastfeeding; talking with your doctor about birth control options at your six week postpartum checkup, or before you resume sexual activity, is probably a good idea.