The return of your period, or menses, following the birth of a child is an event that is unique to each delivery. What you may have experienced with your own children could differ completely from your experience as a surrogate. It is unlikely that you will be able to predict when your body ovulates or when your period will return. While many factors can impact the length of time between birth and the return of the first period, most women will experience a return of menses
by 12 weeks post-partum.
Post Natal Bleed vs. First Period
Every woman will experience a postnatal bleed, called lochia. Some women confuse this bleed with their period, especially when the lochia stretches over an extended period of time. While both bleeds will come from the vagina, they are caused by different things and denote different conditions. The postnatal bleed is the result of broken blood vessels that once held the placenta to the uterine wall. This bleed will continue over several weeks as your uterine contracts back to pre-pregnancy size and your body heals itself. Your period blood, however, is the result of your body shedding uterine lining after failure to detect an implanted embryo (pregnancy).
Things That Can Delay Return
Some women will notice a very swift return of menses, sometimes within a couple of weeks following the cessation of lochia. Others may experience an extended delay that can last many months, sometimes up to a year. Generally the delay is attributed to breastfeeding, with women who nurse or pump frequently generally delaying ovulation for an average of six months. Other things that can cause a delayed return of your cycle can include a hormonal imbalance or overabundance of stress on your life. If you feel concerned about a delay in return to menses you should talk with your OBGYN.
It is important to note that you are capable of ovulating at any time following birth, including during your lochia. It is entirely possible to ovulate before your post-partum bleed has concluded. If this happens, it is possible that you could become pregnant before your period ever returns. For this reason it is important to talk with your OBGYN at your 6 week checkup about birth control. You’ll want to mention if you are still pumping breastmilk, as some hormonal birth control methods could impact the quality or quantity of your supply. Many providers will recommend barrier methods, such as condoms, or an inter-uterine device (IUD), which can usually be placed as soon as 6 weeks post-delivery.