The First Period After Pregnancy Can Be Unpredictable
The first period after pregnancy is often unpredictable, both in terms of when it might occur, and in terms of how heavy or light it will be. In addition, a woman's menstrual cycle sometimes changes from what it once was, and her periods may never be quite the same as they were before she became pregnant. There is a lot that is going on in the lower abdomen immediately preceding, during, and following childbirth, and takes some time for everything to be sorted out. Initially, there may be some bleeding, quite a bit of it at times. This initial bleeding is not menstrual bleeding. It is not a period. The first period comes later, possibly quite a bit later. The bleeding, which may last for several days, is a mixture of blood and vaginal discharge. Once the bleeding and discharge stops, a woman may still experience spotting for several weeks. Occasionally, she will experience what is referred to as delayed postpartum bleeding, which can often be mistaken as the first period following pregnancy. Postpartum bleeding generally occurs within a few days of giving birth, but in some cases it may be experienced as late as 6 weeks following birth, so it is easy to see it could be mistakenly believed to be an early return of the menstrual cycle.
Breastfeeding Is A Factor
Most women are probably not terribly anxious for their periods to resume too soon following childbirth, as they have other things on their mind. The time frame when the first period is likely to occur can vary for several reasons, but the timing primarily has to do with the way the baby is being fed during the initial stages of its infancy. If the baby is being bottle fed, the first period after pregnancy will more than likely come after about two months. If the baby is being breastfed, the first period may not occur until 3 months or so have passed after the breastfeeding has ceased.
Hormones Are As Well
Hormones play an important role as well. In fact there is a tight relationship between breastfeeding and the production of hormones that encourage fertility. A woman who nurses the newborn around the clock is very unlikely to experience a period during that time, since the same hormones that make milk inhibit the release of reproductive hormones. Breastfeeding then, can be thought of as acting like a natural contraceptive. If a woman breastfeeds her baby part of the time, but lets it sleep through the night, or feeds it formula part of the time, she is more apt to have her first period quite a bit sooner than the woman who breastfeeds her baby exclusively.
Irregular Periods Are Not Uncommon
Not only can the timing of the first period after pregnancy be unpredictable, but the timing of later periods can at times be unpredictable as well. In other words, following a pregnancy, periods for some women can become quite irregular and difficult to plan for in advance. Irregular periods can be quite upsetting for those women who excel in planning, and who pride themselves in their ability to carry out a plan once it is put into place. All of a sudden the menstrual period may be 34 days instead of 28, or two months may elapse between periods. Not only can this be somewhat of an inconvenience, but when a woman suddenly misses one or more of her periods, it may lead her to believe she's become pregnant again when she has not, or may cause her to believe something is wrong with her reproductive system, when nothing is wrong at all. In other words, an irregular menstrual cycle can sometimes have a trying effect on the new mother, and possibly on her spouse as well. On the other hand, a woman who is breastfeeding may feel she is safe from becoming pregnant until the first period has occurred. More than one couple has discovered too late, or failed to remember, that the first egg produced following pregnancy is present and ready to be fertilized two weeks before the first period actually occurs.
Postpartum periods may not only be irregular in their timing, but can also be heavier or lighter than what once was considered normal. Here again, hormones are a factor. It usually takes 3 to 4 months following childbirth for the normal hormonal balance to be restored. In some cases though, it can take a good deal longer.
Finally, the first period after pregnancy is often heavy, which is to say bleeding is heavier than was normally experienced in the past, and the first period may be quite painful as well. One theory is that the woman's body is no longer used to having menstrual cycles, and reacts accordingly. Whether this is supported by facts or is simply someone's best guess isn't clear, but it is a fact that many women do not particularly enjoy the first period following pregnancy. For that matter, the majority of women seem to enjoy not having to worry about menstrual cycles and periods at all for a few months, and are often reluctant to see them return.