The return of fertility and normal menstrual periods for individual women after having a baby varies widely. However, it is important to remember that it is possible for a woman to be fertile again and conceive a subsequent baby after 4 weeks of giving birth.
While there are many individual factors that can affect a woman's return to fertility, women who breastfeed are more likely to delay their ability to conceive again. However, breastfeeding (as an only form of contraception) tends to be only reliable for about 30% of breastfeeding women. (If your baby is less than 6 months old, you are fully breastfeeding day and night without the baby having any other food or fluids and you have not had a period since the bleeding has stopped after the birth, then your chances of becoming pregnant again are thought to be about 2 to 3 %. However, not all women will have all these things happening, therefore the general advice is not to rely totally on breastfeeding for contraception.)
Women who breastfeed may not have a normal menstrual period until their baby is fully weaned off the breast (perhaps 9 to12 months or more). Other women will start to experience periods again once their baby starts on solids at around 4 to 6 months, (or if they start complementing their baby's breastfeeds with formula milk). A few women will experience 'light periods' of pink, or light red bleeding, for a day or so every month, at sporadic and unpredictable times. Occasionally, the woman will experience normal periods each month, even though she is fully breastfeeding.
Women who bottle feed from the time the baby is born will usually have a period within 6 to 10 weeks after the birth. For women who fully wean from the breast to the bottle, their periods may return within 2 to 8 weeks. If your periods do not return, you should probably see your caregiver and/or do a pregnancy test! (If you feel like you are experiencing early pregnancy signs and are still breastfeeding and haven't yet had a normal period, a pregnancy test is probably also needed, even if using contraception).
The most important thing to remember is that
...you will release an egg BEFORE you get a period.
Therefore, having the idea that you can wait until you get a period before you start contraception, may mean it is too late. You may be pregnant again before the period comes. If you are happy to have your next baby by the time this new one is 12 months old, then this will not be a problem. But if you want to have some space between your children (or the baby you have just had is 'it') then effective contraception is important.
There are many different types of contraception now available. You may want to talk about your options with your partner, to see what you think will suit you both. Many couples will change their previous form of contraception after they have a baby. In some cases the contraception cannot be used while the woman is breastfeeding (for example 'The Pill') or because the woman has a medical condition. Discuss your options with your caregiver.
You can click on the following headings to find out about your different options for contraception.
Diaphragm or cap
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Natural family planning
Male sterilisation - Vasectomy
Female sterilisation - Tubal occlusion
All information is recommended as a guide only. You should consult your doctor to find out what choice is right for you.