5 Signs of Ovulation After Giving Birth
Originally published 01/09/2023. Updated for accuracy and relevancy on 09/07/2023.
Wondering how to spot the signs of ovulation after giving birth? Read on to learn more about what to look for.
By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
There are many changes in the body throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. These changes also vary greatly from person to person and can depend on a few different factors.
Postnatal care is just as important as prenatal care. Childbirth puts your body through a lot of stress and it’s important to care for it however possible, including taking a postnatal vitamin and prioritizing self care. You may be experiencing hair loss, dehydration, and if you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’ll likely need to up your caloric intake an extra 400-500 calories a day.  There are a lot of changes you’ll be noticing during this period, which is why it’s important to know what and when to expect certain changes. Let’s talk about ovulating after giving birth.
The Puerperium Period
There is about a six week period following birth known as the puerperium, which is full of changes in the body to get back to pre-pregnancy functioning.  Organs like the uterus reduce down to their original sizes and functions, hormone changes are occuring, the placenta is lost, and lactation is beginning. This is the process one goes through to transition from being pregnant to postpartum and potentially breastfeeding.
Lactation has a huge impact on ovulation because of the body’s natural hormonal response. Prolactin is a hormone that is released during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, it’s responsible for lactation, tissue development, and many other processes.  Prolactin levels will increase and remain fairly constant during breastfeeding, but if someone chooses not to breastfeed or is unable to breastfeed, levels will drop. 
This is important to note as the presence of prolactin actually inhibits the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which are two vital hormones for ovulation.  LH is the hormone that is measured when using ovulation tests, and is responsible for the release of a mature egg during ovulation, FSH is the hormone that helps the egg grow.  When prolactin is present in high amounts, LH and FSH are much less likely to circulate in the body and trigger ovulation.
When Do You Ovulate After Birth?
Not everyone has the same timeline on resuming their menstrual cycle after giving birth, and menstruation and ovulation restarting following childbirth vary greatly depending on the person and whether or not they’re breastfeeding. For those that do not lactate, the first period can occur around 45 to 64 days following birth and ovulation can occur between 45 and 94 days postpartum.  It’s not uncommon for some to have a few anovulatory cycles (a menstrual cycle without the release of an egg) before ovulation begins again. Earlier ovulation is possible in nonlactating people and has happened before, with ovulation occurring as soon as 25 to 27 days postpartum.
For those who breastfeed, ovulation and menstruation are much more delayed. Lactational amenorrhea (LAM) is a method of birth control that relies on regular breastfeeding to suppress ovulation and menstruation from restarting and is effective until about six months postpartum.  If breastfeeding frequency or duration is reduced, there is a risk that ovulation can begin earlier, so back up contraception should be used if there is no intention to conceive.  It’s also unclear whether or not pumping has an effect on LAM.  It is possible to ovulate before your period starts, so keep this in mind when thinking about family planning and contraceptive methods.  Check out the Natalist blog for more information on postpartum, ovulation, and more.
What Are Signs of Ovulation After Giving Birth?
The best and most effective way to know when you’re ovulating is by measuring luteinizing hormone using ovulation tests. If you’re not breastfeeding or have stopped breastfeeding and are expecting ovulation to begin again, try testing regularly to keep track of your hormone levels. When the time does come for ovulation to restart postpartum, there are a few signs that you may notice, including:
1. Changes in Cervical Mucus
Your cervical mucus can give you some insight into where you are in your cycle. When nearing ovulation, cervical mucus typically changes to an egg-white consistency, it will be slippery and translucent. This is a sign of fertile cervical mucus and is an indicator of ovulation.
2. Basal Body Temperature
Your lowest resting body temperature is known as your basal body temperature (BBT), and research shows that there is a slight increase in BBT around ovulation.  This isn’t always the case for everyone, as about 20% of those studied didn’t have noticeable differences in temperature despite ovulating, but it can be a good way to track ovulation along with ovulation tests, cervical mucus tracking, or when accompanied by other symptoms. 
3. Ovulation Pain
Ovulatory pain or cramping is experienced in about 40% of people and is often a noticeable one-sided pain in the abdomen or lower back.  Ovulation pain can be dull or sharp and may last for a few hours to a few days. Pain may also be accompanied by bloating. If you’re experiencing extreme pain coupled with nausea, fever, heavy bleeding, or if pain lasts for longer than a few days, you should see your healthcare provider to rule out other conditions.
4. Painful or Sore Breasts
Mastalgia, also known as breast pain, is common during ovulation as well as other phases of the menstrual cycle. Breast pain during ovulation is thought to impact up to 66% of people. 
5. Increased Sex Drive
Some research also shows that sex drive or libido is increased during ovulation. This isn’t the case for everyone, but has been observed in some people. 
What Are Signs of Early Pregnancy After Giving Birth?
Although it’s rare, it is possible for pregnancy to occur as soon as a few weeks postpartum.  It’s more likely in non-lactating women for pregnancy to be possible about a month and a half to three months postpartum. For breastfeeding women, pregnancy may occur as early as six months, potentially sooner if breastfeeding frequency or duration decreases.  Most experts advise women to wait at least 18 months between pregnancies, so you may want to discuss contraception options with your healthcare provider after giving birth. 
Early signs of pregnancy after giving birth include :
1. Missed Period
Having a late or missed period is one of the most obvious signs of pregnancy. When postpartum, pregnancy can occur before menstruation ever begins, so it’s important that you keep track of your cycle, regularly use pregnancy tests and ovulation tests if you are sexually active, and keep an eye out for other symptoms.
It’s normal to feel some fatigue while recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding, but if you’re noticing that you feel more tired than usual or need more sleep than usual, you could be experiencing some pregnancy fatigue. This is caused by increased levels of hormones like progesterone during early pregnancy.
3. Frequent Urination
Having to use the bathroom frequently is a result of increased blood supply during pregnancy and can be a very early symptom of pregnancy.
4. Morning Sickness
Another common sign of pregnancy is nausea or vomiting at any time of the day, despite the common term “morning sickness.” If you’re experiencing extreme vomiting and can’t keep water down, be sure to see a doctor immediately to avoid dehydration and get confirmation of pregnancy or another condition.
5. Sore Breasts
Mastalgia can be a sign of ovulation, an incoming period, or pregnancy. A change in the color of the areolas is a likely sign of pregnancy as well.
6. Implantation Bleeding
Some bleeding may occur as an early sign of pregnancy as well and is the result of implantation bleeding. It can be easy to confuse this as period spotting, so be sure to take a pregnancy test or see your doctor to confirm the cause of any bleeding.
If you suspect you could be pregnant, it’s important to act fast and find out as soon as you can using early pregnancy tests and visiting your healthcare provider.
Your First Postpartum Period
Your first period postpartum is likely to be different from your normal menstruation, and you may even have some abnormal menstrual cycles for a few months after giving birth. This could include anovulatory cycles when no ovulation occurs, or irregular periods that are longer or shorter than usual or don’t occur every month. It’s also common to experience cramping, heavier bleeding, and small blood clots in the first few periods following birth. Be sure to mention any clotting, pain, or irregularities to your healthcare provider just in case.
- It’s common to experience sore nipples, hair loss, postpartum depression, and potentially dehydration after birth and while breastfeeding. Be sure to let your doctor know of any symptoms you’re experiencing.
- Ovulation typically does not occur immediately after birth due to a change in hormones and the body slowly adjusting back to its pre-pregnancy conditions.
- Prolactin is a hormone that is released during pregnancy and lactation that inhibits the release of two key hormones responsible for ovulation: FSH and LH. The longer someone breastfeeds regularly, the longer it will take for menstruation and ovulation to occur, although every one’s experience is unique.
- In those that do not breastfeed, ovulation can occur as early as a few weeks postpartum to two or more months postpartum.
- In those that do breastfeed, the lactational amenorrhea method is a way of preventing pregnancy for up to or around six months postpartum.
- Signs of ovulation after giving birth include a change in body temperature, cervical mucus, ovulation pain, painful breasts, and an increased sex drive.
- You can get pregnant before having a period after giving birth, so be sure to have a backup method of contraception ready when you are sexually active again.
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