Lactation and the menstrual cycle are complex and mysterious processes. It is not surprising that their influence on each other often causes a lot of questions and erroneous judgments among young mothers. Let’s try to understand the main misconceptions associated with a period while breastfeeding.
General Information About Period and Breastfeeding
The timing of the recovery of the period while breastfeeding is purely individual for each woman. Restoration of menstruation directly depends on the hormonal background of a woman, so the time rate can vary significantly.
The majority of nursing mothers note, that the menstrual cycle is restored in the period from 6 to 24 months of the baby. During the lactation, the anterior lobe of hypophysis produces the hormone which is called prolactin. It inhibits the maturation of the egg and, consequently, the ovulation. That’s why menstruation does not come.
However, if there are any changes in the organization of breastfeeding, for example, the mother begins to feed the baby less than 8-12 times a day or introduces complementary foods, lures, transfers the child to mixed or artificial feeding, the level of prolactin decreases and, accordingly, the probability of ovulation and the recovery of menstruation increases.
Why Don’t You Have Period While Breastfeeding?
Many women don’t have their period while breastfeeding. Menstruation comes back only around the first year of the baby. Although, the appearance of menstruation may happen earlier. Period “disappears” under the influence of the hormone prolactin, due to which milk is produced. It suppresses the production of progesterone – a hormone, thanks to which woman’s ovules mature, getting ready to fertilize. Thus, if progesterone is not produced, the ovules do not mature. That’s why you don’t have your period while breastfeeding. As a result, a woman can’t get pregnant. This phenomenon is called “lactational amenorrhea” in medicine. It is not difficult to guess that when the level of prolactin decreases, the level of progesterone increases. So, a nursing mother is ready to become pregnant again, which means the recovery of the menstrual cycle.
Why Can Period Start During Breastfeeding?
Now we know why most women don’t have periods while breastfeeding. But the situation can be absolutely opposite. A lot of mothers wonder why some women have menstruation during lactation just as before pregnancy. Specialists say that the main reason for it is the child’s diet – when the baby eats formula in addition to breast milk. The level of prolactin can decrease, even if you periodically give your baby water. If you have a period while breastfeeding, then this may be due to rare applications of the baby to the breast. By the way, some experts recommend feeding children according to a schedule. That means waking children up for night feedings. The women who follow this recommendation usually do not have a period while breastfeeding.
Various health problems can become the cause of menstruation during lactation. For example, the period while breastfeeding can begin if there is a violation of prolactin production. It can happen for various reasons. The main ones are various diseases of the mother, a decrease in immunity, drugs administration, especially the administration of hormonal drugs.
If menstruation starts immediately even though you breastfeed, do not panic. It just means that lactational amenorrhea did not work for you. In general, this is not a pathology. In any case, continue to breastfeed your baby and do not forget to visit a gynecologist every two months at least up to six months.
Keep in mind that period while breastfeeding is not a reason for stopping breastfeeding and weaning the baby from the breast!
When Can Menstruation Start?
We have already said that the delay in menstruation during breastfeeding can be different in time. However, there are some patterns. So, with mixed feeding, the menstruation usually appears from the third to the sixth month after the baby’s birth. If menstruation starts in 6 months after the birth, this is most likely due to the introduction of the complementary feeding. With artificial feeding, menstruation usually comes at once.
If you follow all the rules of feeding, which means feeding the baby on time, giving only breastmilk, not giving water, but period while breastfeeding still starts, then there is probably some abnormality in your body. This abnormality could lead to disruption of the hormone prolactin. There is nothing terrible here but, in order to be sure that everything is fine, visit your doctor.
How Does Menstruation Affect Lactation?
Now you know that menstruation and lactation are quite compatible concepts. Let’s see how menstruation can affect breastfeeding. The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that menstruation does not affect the taste of milk in any way, as it is commonly believed. Just ask yourself: would the child take the breast if the milk became unappetizing? No, they surely wouldn’t.
When the menstrual cycle begins a slight decline in milk production is possible. This is due to the increase of the level of progesterone hormone, which slightly suppresses the work of prolactin. During this time, you need to maintain lactation, though you do not risk losing milk at all. Perhaps, this is the only thing that can be said about the effect of menstruation on lactation.
Irregular Period While Breastfeeding
Well, at last, it is necessary to tell a few words about how menstruation begins during breastfeeding. Whenever the period starts, don’t expect that it will be regular. Usually, cycle regularity returns in 2-3 cycles after the recovery of menstruation. Irregular periods while breastfeeding are not uncommon but require attention. If you have malfunctions with menstruation lasting longer than three months, go to a gynecologist. There are several possible reasons for this – inflammatory diseases, hormonal disorders as well as the onset of the second pregnancy.
If you have stopped breastfeeding do not expect that the menstruation will begin the next day. The menstrual cycle can begin two months after weaning the baby. However, do not wait more than this time. It is better to consult a doctor.
Remember that the absence of period while breastfeeding is not a guarantee that you will not get pregnant. After all, the menstrual cycle can return at any time and is completely asymptomatic. Therefore, do not rely on lactational amenorrhea and protect yourself. Keep in mind that you still need to recover after giving birth.
Breastfeeding and Menstruation Are not Mutually Exclusive Processes
Complete recovery of the cycle comes by the end of lactation. More often, the menstruation comes after one and a half or two months after the end of breastfeeding. The regularity of the cycle for each woman comes in different ways, usually, after 2-3 cycles the period comes back to normal.
If at the end of this time the menstruation does not become stable, then you need to contact the gynecologist to identify possible causes or exclude diseases of the genital area.
Usually, menstruation changes its character after the end of breastfeeding. It becomes more regular and less painful than before pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth can change the position of the uterus which has a positive effect on the well-being of a woman during her period.
All abnormalities or painful phenomena during the period while breastfeeding should be immediately discussed with a doctor who can establish their cause and, if necessary, prescribe adequate treatment. After all, a healthy mother can guarantee the successful long breastfeeding and the baby’s health.