Do you ever wonder where your period went while nursing that baby?
There is such variability out there around when your period returns after having the baby, whether you can get pregnant or not, and actually how much nursing (sucking-stimulation) is actually going on. What is the frequency? What is the intensity? I am so curious about how it felt to not have a period for so long and not be pregnant and what nursing may have had to do with it. How did you feel when the bleeding finally returned? Had you actually decreased the amount of time you actually spent nursing your little one? Perhaps it was not a factor at all!
We know so very little about the experience of women and how it feels. Of course, you can get pregnant without the return of your period, or even having had a “first” period. Ovulation can occur in the absence of menses. Just a single drop of an egg can slip by you and meet up with the sperm; but it is not a likely occurrence if there were few separations between you and your baby. Increased sucking inhibits ovulation but does not prevent it from taking place. There are many other factors at work.
Whether you actually thought to use lactation as a form of contraception is not relevant. However, to protect the mother from conceiving too soon after the last baby, there is a biological shift that allows for a gentle space between each child over a period of decreased fertility.
If you are completely focused on your part in the developing relationship of the mother-baby couple, your period is probably the last thing you will see until the slow and steady introduction of solid foods accompanied by regular and lengthy separations from your baby. Sucking inhibits ovulation indirectly through the release of two hormones prolactin and our old friend oxytocin.
If you have never heard of the term:
“Lactational amenorrhea” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactational_amenorrhea as a legitimate form of contraception, it doesn’t surprise me. Today, we expect a much higher rate of certainty these days in our birth control methods. But we are barely just barely two generations away from widespread use of oral hormonal methods when for centuries all women had were abstinence, barrier methods and nursing babies to stave off the next child wanted or not. Women had to have the permission of their husbands to obtain almost any contraception. Most women historically never have the option to decline sex without serious risks or consequences.
With my two babies, my period returned about nine months and eleven months respectively. They were six years apart almost to the day, so my frequency of lactation had little to do with my fertility or so I thought. I enjoyed not having my period. No cramps, no heavy bleeding, just diapers for the baby…
The return to bleeding was a powerful sign of a huge shift in my relationship with my little one. I felt different, I smelled different, I wondered at times if the milk tasted different. For some reason the blood or absence thereof was a sign of connectedness. I was aware of feeling a bit PMS, anxious and irritable with some bloating, and then I would just sit down or lie down and nurse my baby and we would both feel better. Was that the signal for the onset of my period?
There came a time when it was over… I didn’t recall that it had anything to do with weaning. It had to do with our comfort and ability to spend time away from each other freed up to be available to others. My periods were “normal” less onerous for a time. And then the bleeding got heavier as I got older, more painful and associated with fibroids and the doctor said, have another baby, or these fibroids must come out… the end of my fertility, the return or the absence of bleeding.
Please tell us your story. What is your recollection of your period? Do you have stories about your first period? The first period you missed and why? Who could you tell? How did you handle your period? What was your bleeding like when you nursed your baby?
References. read on…
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor by Sheila Kippley
- Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley