You’ve just had your baby, and the first few weeks have been a whirlwind of baby snuggles, kisses, and healing. Chances are you’ve hardly had any time to think about yourself, but now that you’re nearing your six week check-up with your midwife or OB, you may be starting to wonder: What’s the deal with getting your period after pregnancy?

When Do You Get Your First Period After Pregnancy?

You may be surprised to learn there’s really no concrete answer. Some women get their period as little as eight weeks after birth, others may not get their period for a year or longer—that’s a pretty big range!

Our bodies are all different and countless factors can influence when you get your period after pregnancy, but the biggest one is whether you’re breastfeeding or not.

When Will I Get My Period If I’m Breastfeeding?

You can get your period while breastfeeding, although it is typically much later than non-breastfeeding moms. Both research and anecdotal evidence show that most breastfeeding moms do not get their periods until at least 3-6 months after birth. Why?

Prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, has the ability to suppress the hormone that manages periods. This is called lactational amenorrhea.

Things That Affect When a Breastfeeding Mama Gets Her Period After Pregnancy

1. Baby’s sleep schedule

The more baby wakes up at night to eat, the more milk mama continues to produce, and that milk-producing hormone, prolactin, works to suppress menstruation. When baby starts to sleep through the night, mama’s body slowly produces less prolactin and milk, which in turn can trigger mama’s period to return.

2. Introducing solids

Introducing solid food can also affect periods if baby eats a lot of solid food and nurses less. When baby eats more and nurses less, this signals mama’s body to produce less milk, and that little shift can be enough to trigger menstruation. Many babies start solid foods around six months.

3. Mama’s hormonal makeup

Despite the averages, our bodies are all different, and each mama must take into account her own hormonal makeup. Some moms may be nursing all through the night, but still get a period two or three months postpartum. Other moms may wean their child and not see a period for months. If you have concerns about your hormones, speak with your doctor or midwife.

Don’t be surprised if your period comes and goes…

To confuse matters even more: A breastfeeding mama’s period may come and go. If your baby starts sleeping through the night at three months, mom may get her period back. But, if baby’s sleep pattern changes (4 month sleep regression, anyone?!), mom’s milk production and hormones will change and her period can stop again. It will return once baby starts sleeping longer stretches at night.

When Will I Get My Period If I’m Not Breastfeeding?

If you are formula feeding or supplementing, you’re more likely to get your first period sooner—sometimes as early as 8 weeks after birth. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, nursing through the night, and not supplementing with any formula, you might not see your first period until baby’s first birthday. Some breastfeeding women don’t get their first periods until they wean their children!

Irregular Periods After Pregnancy

If you haven’t had your period in awhile, but want to get pregnant again, you may be anxious for your cycle come back. It can be especially frustrating if you’ve always had periods that operate like clockwork!

First, know that some irregularity is completely normal in the first year postpartum. Remember your body just went through huge hormonal changes during pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum healing, and breastfeeding.

Here are some common irregularities:

  • A change in flow: You may experience a scant or heavy first period after pregnancy
  • Longer than normal cycles: Your first cycle may be 45 days, then 40, then 35, and so on until eventually your cycle returns to normal
  • Changes in the number of days you bleed: You may bleed for 4 days now instead of 6, or vice versa

Natural Ways to Regulate Your Menstrual Cycle

Although irregularities are normal, you may want to get yourself back into balance. This will help you with natural birth control or with trying for another baby.

Luckily, there are natural ways to regulate your menstrual cycle. Check out this post for everything you need to know about increasing your fertility and your chances of conception.

When to Talk to a Doctor

You should contact your provider with any questions or concerns during the postpartum period, but you should absolutely talk to your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Any period that requires you to change your tampon, pad, or cup every hour
  • Bleeding that lasts more than seven days
  • Clots larger than a quarter
  • Missing a period after you’ve already had a few
  • Mid-cycle spotting

If you are formula feeding and haven’t had a period three months after birth or if you are breastfeeding and haven’t had a period three months after weaning, it’s time to see your doctor.