Many new mothers have questions about menstruation and breastfeeding. What is “normal?” The answer: Just about anything.
Have you heard different experiences and stories when it comes to your friends’ periods? While some women never experience a period while breastfeeding and consider it their birth control for six months or longer, other women may experience irregular periods while still others resume regular periods while their babies are still feeding at least part-time.
Let’s start by saying that it is possible to have your period while you’re breastfeeding, and many women do have irregular or light periods throughout their breastfeeding months or years. It all comes down to a hormone known as prolactin. This is the hormone that regulates the production of milk while you’re breastfeeding, but it also naturally suppresses menstruation.
The more prolactin you have in your body, the less likely you are to have a period. Once your milk is in less demand and you start to produce less of this hormone, you’re likely to resume your menstrual cycle.
We gathered this information based on common questions new moms have regarding menstruation and breastfeeding to help you explore all possible scenarios regarding menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Like we said…there is a wide range of “normal!”
Your First Period While Breastfeeding – What to Expect
Some women never have a period while they’re breastfeeding even part-time while other women experience a light period here and there throughout their breastfeeding journey. Still other women experience a full return to normal periods as soon as their babies start sleeping through the night or their breastfeeding routines change in some other way. You never know how your body might react or when that first period may appear, so don’t assume that you can’t have a period just because you’re breastfeeding.
Remember, this comes down to the presence of prolactin in your system. When your baby starts sleeping through the night or even for longer stretches of time, they demand less milk from your breasts.
If you’re actively pumping, you may keep the demand high, which is likely to result in continued production of prolactin. Eventually, you will need to cut back as your baby switches to solid food and depends on breast milk less, and you will eventually have your first post-baby period at that time.
For some women, the first period is light or unusually short. Others may experience heavy periods right from the start. You may want to talk about this with your doctor if you’re concerned, but keep in mind that every woman is different and just about anything is considered normal at this phase in your life. Even if you get one period and then it seems to disappear for months, it’s not likely a sign of a larger problem.
Irregular Periods While Breastfeeding
While there are some medical conditions that may cause irregular periods, it’s common for women to experience irregular menstruation while breastfeeding or even shortly after weaning their baby from the breast. It can take up to two years for some women to normalize their menstrual cycles after having a baby, but it doesn’t take nearly that long for most women.
Irregular periods are often a result of fluctuating hormone levels in your body. This can happen if your baby is feeding less often or at different times or when you have a change in your schedule. It may also happen for seemingly no reason at all, but there is no cause for alarm unless you have other symptoms that may hint that something else is happening. For instance, if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in the abdominal or pelvic region or are losing an extreme amount of weight without explanation. You can always talk to your doctor if you suspect that your irregular periods are connected to other medical issues, but also keep in mind that many women are irregular while breastfeeding.