Is This a Normal Pattern For Post-Weaning Periods?

Kathleen Tackett's picture

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
I am living in West Africa and don't have access to specialized medical care or anyone I feel comfortable talking with, so I am hoping you might have a moment to help me.

I breast-fed my daughter (my first-born child) for almost 22 months and weaned her about two months ago. In weaning her, she went from nursing 5 or 6 times a day, to just once a day, in the mornings. She nursed once a day for two weeks. Then, she stopped nursing all together. Six weeks after completely weaning her, I got my first period since before becoming pregnant. It was abnormally heavy (for me) and lasted about five days (longer than usual). Then, this month I felt like I was getting my period or thought I may be pregnant, as it felt more like pregnancy than a period. I took a pregnancy test the twenty-ninth day, but it was negative. Today, the 32nd day, I started spotting/bleeding very lightly, but it is as if all of the signs of either my period or pregnancy have diminished -- I feel no or only slight cramping, no breast tenderness, etc.I will be 44 years old in July. Does this sound like a normal chain of events, to have such different/irregular periods this close to weaning, or could I be going through menopause? If these periods "sound" normal, when might I expect to start having regular periods (and ovulating) again? I am thinking about trying to have a second child.

Thanks so much for any advice/comments you might offer,
Bonnie

ANSWER

Hi Bonnie,
Nothing that you are describing sounds at all unusual to me. It takes your body nine months to undergo the hormonal and anatomical changes that prepare you for lactation, and then you spent nearly two years nursing. All in all, your body was in an altered hormonal state for about 2 and 1/2 years, so it stands to reason that it wouldn't go back to its pre-pregnant state within a few weeks after you stopped breastfeeding. Many women have irregular periods, or periods that are heavier or lighter than normal after they stop nursing. It usually only takes a few months for your body to settle back to something approaching the menstrual cycles that you had before you had a child.

There isn't a lot of research about women in their mid-forties and the resumption of menses after weaning, so it is certainly possible that you might experience more menstrual irregularities than a younger women. However, there is just as good a chance that within a few months you will resume regular cycles again.

I'm sorry that I don't have a more definitive answer for you, but I don't think there is anything to worry about based on what you have described. The article "Birth Control and Breastfeeding" may have some more information that you would find helpful.

All the best,

-- Anne, IBCLC