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Home > Learn > Postpartum > >Your Period While Breastfeeding: What to Know

Your Period While Breastfeeding: What to Know

Jan 25, 24 5 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

The time we spend recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding is often filled with many unknowns. It can be a waiting game to see how long it takes to start feeling and looking like yourself again. Many people wonder when to expect their period while breastfeeding, how their period can affect milk supply, and when to expect ovulation to restart. Let’s go over some common questions people have after giving birth. 

Can You Get Your Period While Breastfeeding?

Yes, you can get your period while breastfeeding. Some people are under the misconception that their period will not return until they have finished weaning their child. Breastfeeding can indeed delay the onset of menstruation, but the actual length of postpartum amenorrhea varies greatly and is influenced by breastfeeding practices, maternal age, nutritional stage, and more. [1] 

There is something we call the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), which is a way of preventing pregnancy for about six months after giving birth if someone is breastfeeding regularly and not experiencing menstruation. [2] LAM works as a result of certain hormones delaying or preventing ovulation from occurring while breastfeeding. 

Some key hormones to be familiar with are prolactin, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Prolactin is a hormone responsible for lactation, tissue development, and many other processes. [3] Prolactin levels are especially high when breastfeeding. The presence of prolactin inhibits the release of LH and FSH, two hormones responsible for the growth and release of a mature egg. [3-4] As long as prolactin levels are maintained, ovulation is less likely to occur. The inhibition of ovulation may consequently delay the onset of menstruation. LAM is especially effective in the first few months after giving birth.  Learn the signs of ovulation after giving birth >> 

Additionally, it may be easy to confuse lochia with a period. [5] Lochia is a mix of blood and uterine tissue that the body will release for two to three weeks after delivery. Lochia is not a true menstrual period, even though it may seem similar. [5] 

While it’s true that breastfeeding exclusively can delay the onset of ovulation and menstruation, everyone’s body is different, and there is no way to guarantee that menstruation won’t return while someone is still nursing. If you do notice any vaginal bleeding or abnormal discharge, speak with your provider.

What Happens If I Get My Period While Breastfeeding?

As already stated, it’s possible that you will get your period while still breastfeeding. It’s expected and normal for your first postpartum period to be different from your pre-pregnancy periods. [5] You may experience a few anovulatory cycles (cycles when ovulation does not occur), irregular periods, shorter or longer periods than usual, and symptoms such as cramping, heavier bleeding, and passing blood clots. [5] If you do notice any irregularities in your cycle or discharge, be sure to speak with a provider. 

Do Periods Affect Milk Supply?

It is possible that your milk supply will be altered during your menstrual cycle. Some people notice a drop in their supply during the luteal phase, the second half of your cycle leading up to menstruation. [6] It may also become uncomfortable to nurse at certain times of your cycle as a result of hormonal changes. [6] According to La Leche League, a daily dose of 500 to 1,000 mg of calcium and magnesium during the luteal phase may help minimize a drop in milk supply. [6] Support your nutrition and supplementation goals with Natalist Magnesium and Calcium drink powder or a postnatal vitamin, or read more about taking magnesium postpartum. 

When Will I Get My First Period After Breastfeeding?

It’s hard to know exactly when someone will get their first postpartum period. Many factors can influence when menstruation will return, including how often someone is breastfeeding, hormone levels, and more. [1,5,6] Some may have their period as early as five to six weeks after giving birth, while others may not start menstruating again until they start weaning their child months after giving birth. [6] One study found the following [7]:

  • Lactating women (breastfeeding regularly or exclusively) started menstruating between six and 24 weeks postpartum.
  • Partly-lactating women started menstruating between six and 12 weeks postpartum.
  • Nonlactating women started menstruating within six and 12 weeks postpartum. 

This study found that the earlier menstruation returned, the more irregular it was. 

It is important to note that you may be able to get pregnant again before menstruation begins, so be sure to use protection if you aren’t trying to conceive. 

Natalist’s Role in Your Breastfeeding Journey

The postpartum period is a time of change, healing, bonding, and learning more about yourself and your little one. Natalist is proudly led by a team of moms, doctors, and parents who understand the ups and downs of fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum life. If you are breastfeeding or recently postpartum and are interested in nutritional support or safe self-care products, Natalist can help. We’ve got you covered with breastfeeding-safe Nip & Lip Balm, postnatal vitamins, a breastfeeding kit, and more. Shop more Natalist products here. 


References:

  1. Badraoui MH, Hefnawi F. Ovarian function during lactation. Popul Sci. 1982;(2):95-107.
  2. Lactational Amenorrhea Method. CDC. March 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/mmwr/mec/appendixg.html
  3. Tyson JE, Hwang P, Guyda H, Friesen HG. Studies of prolactin secretion in human pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1972;113(1):14-20. doi:10.1016/0002-9378(72)90446-2
  4. McNeilly AS. Prolactin and the control of gonadotrophin secretion in the female. J Reprod Fertil. 1980;58(2):537-549. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0580537
  5. Patel, Shivani. Will my period change after pregnancy? UT Southwestern Medical Center. October 2021. https://utswmed.org/medblog/period-changes-after-pregnancy/
  6. Menstruation and Breastfeeding. La Leche League International. January 2021. https://llli.org/breastfeeding-info/menstruation/
  7. Sharman A. Menstruation after childbirth. J Obstet Gynaecol Br Emp. 1951;58:440-445.

Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.

Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, health equity, and mentoring. She is the CEO of The EpiCentre, an OBGYN spa-like practice, and is a Clinical faculty member of Charleston Southern University. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women

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