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After your baby is born, one event you might not look forward to is the return of your menstrual periods. Resumption of menstrual cycles depends on changes in hormones that occur after your baby is born, so the fact that you had a cesarean section (C-section) instead of a vaginal delivery won't affect when your periods return. But having a cesarean may cause your first periods to appear heavier. And whether you deliver vaginally or by C-section, your first few periods will often differ in various ways, including length or amount, from your usual periods.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
When Menstruation Returns
After both cesarean and vaginal delivery, your levels of certain hormones will drop, including estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). But one hormone -- prolactin -- is needed to produce breast milk, so it decreases only if you don't breastfeed. High levels of prolactin also prevent ovulation. Since periods usually return about 2 weeks after ovulation resumes, breastfeeding usually delays the resumption of periods.
With bottle-feeding, periods generally return 5 to 12 weeks after delivery, according to Dr. Pahl at Baby Centre. If you breastfeed exclusively, the persistently high prolactin levels delay ovulation, although ovulation usually resumes by about 6 months in most women, according to the textbook "Maternal-Child Nursing." But the effects of breastfeeding only apply if you are exclusively breastfeeding 1. In fact, if your baby sleeps through the night, the nighttime break in breastfeeding may cause your periods to return as early as 3 months, notes Dr. Pahl.
- After both cesarean and vaginal delivery, your levels of certain hormones will drop, including estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
- But one hormone -- prolactin -- is needed to produce breast milk, so it decreases only if you don't breastfeed.
How to Get Your Period Back After Birth Control
Whether you deliver vaginally or by C-section, you will experience a bloody vaginal discharge called lochia for 4 to 6 weeks after delivery 5. This becomes lighter in color and less copious over time and should not be confused with a period. Lochia tends to be less after a C-section than after a vaginal delivery, according to the Cleveland Clinic 35. Some women who have had a cesarean delivery may note heavier periods at first because of the incision made in their uterus.
When your periods resume after any delivery -- whether vaginal or C-section -- they are likely to differ initially in length, color, regularity, odor or amount from your periods before pregnancy 3. Over time, they will usually return to normal.
- Whether you deliver vaginally or by C-section, you will experience a bloody vaginal discharge called lochia for 4 to 6 weeks.
- Some women who have had a cesarean delivery may note heavier periods at first because of the incision made in their uterus.
If you don’t ovulate, you can’t become pregnant. Because of this, if you are exclusively breastfeeding, you have a small -- less than 1 in 100 -- chance of getting pregnant, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals 4. But breastfeeding is not a foolproof method of birth control, so once your doctor says its okay to resume sex, use contraceptives if you aren't ready for another baby 23.
Although your initial periods can differ from your usual periods, they will usually return to normal after a few months. In some women, they remain changed -- sometimes worse, sometimes better -- according to the Cleveland Clinic, but check with your doctor if they are not back to normal in a few months to make sure there is no underlying problem 35.
Reviewed and revised by Mary D. Daley, M.D.
- If you don’t ovulate, you can’t become pregnant.
- Because of this, if you are exclusively breastfeeding, you have a small -- less than 1 in 100 -- chance of getting pregnant, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.
How to Get Your Period Back After Birth Control
Light Pink Spotting While Breastfeeding
Why Period Might Come One Week Early
Side Effects of Missing Your Contraceptive Injection
Bleeding After Having Sex during Pregnancy
Can Stopping Exercise Make Your Period Late?
Abdominal Pain Before a Period
Side Effects of Discontinuing Use of a NuvaRing
How to Regulate a Menstrual Cycle Without Birth Control Pills
Does Breastfeeding Cause Low Progesterone?
- Maternal-Child Nursing; Emily Stone McKinney, et al.
- National Health Service (United Kingdom): When Will my Periods Start Again After Pregnancy?
- Cleveland Clinic: How Do Your Periods Change After Pregnancy?
- Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: Breastfeeding (Lactational Amenorrhea Method)
- Cleveland Clinic: Pregnancy -- Physical Changes After Delivery
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.