Since 32% of babies are delivered via C-section in the United States today, moms-to-be have lots of questions—many of which involve your monthly menstrual cycle. When do you get your period after a C-section? Does breastfeeding affect this cycle? Should I expect light, heavy, or irregular periods after a C-section? We’ve got all of the answers to your most common questions.
When will I get my first period after a C-section?
Having a C-section or vaginal delivery does not impact how quickly your period will return. What does affect menstruation, however, is whether you choose to breastfeed your baby. “Most women who don’t breastfeed will have their periods return at 6-8 weeks postpartum, if they had regular periods before getting pregnant,” says Pamela Promecene, M.D., professor and obstetrician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth/UT Physicians in Houston. “If she’s breastfeeding, return of menstruation is more unpredictable. Many women who breastfeed exclusively will not have menses return for several months.”
What factors impact the return of your period?
Besides breastfeeding, height and weight also impact the return of menstruation, says David Colombo, M.D., Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Spectrum Health. “The form of birth control will also play a factor,” he says. “For example, if she’s on the shot (Depo-Provera), it could be a year before it returns.” What's more, if your period wasn’t regular before pregnancy, it might still be irregular after a C-section.
What my period be like after a C-section?
Wondering if you’ll experience bad periods after a C-section? The truth is that after your period returns, it can take a while for the cycle to be totally regular again. You may notice small blood clots, irregular flow, or increased period pain after a C-section. That’s because a lot of your uterine lining must shed with the return of menstruation. Some women also experience a heavy period after C-section, while others have a lighter-than-normal flow.
If you’re worried about period symptoms, or if you think you should be menstruating and you're not, give your doctor a call. Also see if your doctor for extremely heavy bleeding (soaking more than one pad per hour), very painful cramping, foul-smelling discharge. clumps bigger than golf balls, and menstruation accompanied by fever.
Is it my period or lochia?
After both vaginal births and C-sections, women shed a mixture of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue known as “lochia.” This vaginal discharge can last for several weeks postpartum. However, lochia is usually lighter in color than your period; it may even be a creamy white, pink, or brown. It also smells “sweet” and increases with physical activity.
Can you get pregnant after a C-section?
It's important to remember that even if you're not menstruating regularly while breastfeeding, you can still ovulate and become pregnant. This is most often the case for moms of babies older than 6 months, who are eating solid foods and breastfeeding less frequently, or for babies who get a combination of breast milk and formula, because levels of breastfeeding hormones may not be high enough to suppress ovulation. So if another baby is not in your game plan right now, be sure to use a reliable method of birth control.