Thursday, January 21, 2010

Missing: Period

If you're looking for a discussion on the finer points of sentence completion, you're going to be disappointed. No, I'm talking about that icky subject that we don't always like to discuss in polite company: menstruation.

The thing is, I just can't help wondering when my periods are going to start again. I have had none since I gave birth sixteen and a half months ago, apart from a couple of tiny, tiny bleeds (too small to even rank as "spotting") that occurred a couple of months ago.

Don't get me wrong - I am enjoying the break from the monthly bleeding. It's a great side effect of breastfeeding. But I am also starting to get a little anxious for them to return, just to give me a sign that my body is all back to normal, working properly and ready to make another baby if and when I want to.

Maybe that's the thing - my body isn't ready to make another baby. I tend to think that the human body is a lot cleverer than we think it is, and that the delayed return of menstruation is precisely to prevent us from creating another life that we are not ready to support. Things have undoubtedly been tough since Cave Baby was born. I have missed out on a lot of sleep, I have been stressed, anxious and jumpy and I have rarely been able to physically rest my body. She is, in most respects, a "high needs" child. And at the end of last year I was ill to the extent that my GP thought I might have cancer (which I don't have, I don't think. At least not in my colon. Don't worry about this admission). So is my body perhaps withholding my periods to give me time to recover?

But on the other hand, I seem to be generally healthy. I am sleeping better now, I am always well nourished and I get plenty of gentle exercise each day. I don't smoke and I drink a little wine. Before getting pregnant I always had regular periods - not exactly every 28 days, but never with a gap of more than five weeks between them. Since I have never suffered from bad PMS or period pains, I don't dread the return of menstruation like some women do.

On average, a night-and-day on-demand breastfeeding mother's periods return at 14.6 months. That makes me two months longer than average already. I'm really interested in any other mothers' experiences, and particularly whether you think that your body delayed menstruation longer as a result of your child being a lot of work. Should I just trust that my body knows what it's doing? Should I put it down to co-sleeping and frequent breastfeeding? Should I just enjoy the time off periods?

25 comments:

Earthenwitch said...

Well, I was on-demand feeding (and still am) at eleven months, and my periods came back then - I don't think they read that section of the manual. ;)

I'm inclined to think that, just as it takes different people wildly different lengths of time to do all sorts of things, from walking a mile to conceiving a child, it just varies from person to person. I did come across one person who hadn't started bleeding again after four years, because of breastfeeding. (She started shortly after that, and conceived almost instantly, so it's not as if something else was going on.)

As to whether to just enjoy it, well, I suppose it depends on whether that 'if and when' becomes a 'when', really. :)

Olivia said...

I'm almost 10 months out from giving birth, and no period yet. I nurse on demand and co-sleep so I'm sure that is why. I've been wondering is I will need to cut back on nursing if we want to concieve our 2nd child by next fall.

macondo mama said...

I JUST got mine back a few days ago, at 16.5 months post-partum (our babies are the same age!), and this is what I had to say about it:

http://macondomama.blogspot.com/2010/01/hindsight.html

I still nurse frequently, day and night, but other than the physical demands of nursing, I don't think my little monkey is particularly challenging (above and beyond the daily exhaustion and frustrations of any tiny little terror).

I got my period at 11.5 months with my first, so I guess every time, as well as every woman, is different.

I did feel a little relief when I first got it back, just knowing everything still works, but now I would gladly go for a while longer without it. So I say enjoy it while you can.

TopHat said...

I got mine back at 5.5 months, but my fertility didn't return until 18 months. That was crazy annoying! You'll have a greater chance at getting both at the same time. :)

cypress sun said...

oh yes...enjoy the time off! sometimes they return with a vengeance!

cartside said...

I got them back 10 months post partum, when I reduced and stopped the pumping at work because I couldn't keep up and it wore me out. So clear link between not exclusively breastfeeding for milk requirements (daughter got 2 formula feeds a day from 9 months) and return of periods. I loved not having them... I have a high need child and we still had very broken nights and co slept every night at that point, so the link was breast feeding related only.

carol b said...

I got mine back after two months even though we co-sleep and I breastfed on demand for 22 months, so I think it is definitely down to the individual.

being 43 perhaps my body was saying 'don't waste any time, if you want another get on with it!'

molly said...

I'm still without one at 17 mo., but I had a miscarriage and no period in between that and my pregnancy with my 17 mo old, so I've technically been w/o one for...hmm...2 1/2 years? I co-sleep and nurse on demand, but I also work full time outside of the home so...go figure.

Anonymous said...

i am a 'cave mother' too and have had about 2 very faint periods in 19 months since the birth of my baby.

my partner is an archaeologist and i remember he showed me some stats once that showed stone age birth rates were quite low - around 5 babies per woman, which when you think that they would have started reproducing at 16, points to a larger gap between babies being 'natural' than is common at the moment.

another source i read (sorry i forget where) pointed out that nomadic people like early humans could not have afforded to have 2 infants at once because the previous one has to be able to walk alone and keep up with the group before the next arrives. which also points to something like a 3 year gap between babies.

so i don't think you need to worry about 'returning to normal'- you ARE normal already, just still in the infant-carrying part of the reproductive cycle. like you say, your body, like mine, is just saying 'wait a bit' for the next little one.

Melodie said...

My girlfriend went 19 months each time. I got 6 months each time. And we both exclusively breastfed and breastfed around the clock. I've also heard of 2 year breaks. I hear what you're saying but I'd just enjoy it. :)

Lisa - edenwild said...

I'm jealous. I think I had a few weeks between postpartum bleeding and my first menstrual cycle. I think it's because I had to pump for a while. It's definitely not nature's design to breastfeed full time AND menstruate.

Anyway, extreme stress, illness, and malnourishment can hinder menstruation but I don't think that even really stressful motherhood would do it. I think it's gotta be more severe than that. Oh, and I've heard of lactational amenorrhea lasting years for a few women. I think you are in the normal range.

Liz said...

I got my periods back around 5 months post-partum with DD and about 8 months pp with DS despite co-sleeping and demand-feeding around the clock. But my homrones are all screwed up due to PCOS anyway. But I've heard of several women who found that ovulation and menstruation were inhibited by even the the smallest amount of breastfeeding. I suppose it depends on your balance of hormones and your sensitivity to them.
I have also read in several places of around 3 years being the 'natural' gap between children if full-term breastfeeding which would point to it being entirely normal not to get periods back until 2 years pp.

global mamas said...

I got my period back after only a couple of months and I am still a full time breast feeding mum 17 months later!
I think you might be right when you talk about the body being very clever and knowing when it is ready to lose blood (iron)..but a little tip, between my previous two pregnancies (almost 20 years ago), I didn't even get a period...just ovulated and got pregnant straight away.

Mon said...

Totally individual.

"Should I just trust that my body knows what it's doing?"

YES. If you sense something is wrong, then seek medical opinion. But you say you feel fine. Trust that. Enjoy! :)

Cave Mother said...

I posted a reply to the comments last Friday, and I just noticed it had not worked :( Thanks for them all - actually I'm surprised at how many people resume menstruation so early, despite breastfeeding and co-sleeping. But I'm obviously in the normal range so I'm not going to worry until I start really wanting to make a brother or sister for Cave Baby!

TheFeministBreeder said...

I'm jealous of anyone who gets lots of time off from a period. Mine came back 6 weeks postpartum with my first boy (wasn't breastfeeding) and it came back 7 months postpartum with my second (exclusively breastfed, still bfing him today at 20 mos.) I got my period back last time after he started sleeping through the night. Cursed! All I wanted was some sleep, and I got a period to boot. Drat.

I'm hoping next time I can drag it out until at LEAST a year.

Hobo Mama said...

I also am jealous. For me it was just under 7 months, even with what I considered a high-needs baby and ecological breastfeeding, so I was really expecting 18 months or so off. Oh, well! But I agree that our bodies know what they're doing in most instances and that yours probably knows what you need (or don't need, in this case!).

Jessica said...

I was on-demand breastfeeding when my periods came back at around 6 months. I was pretty surprised, actually. I guess you and I help make the average 14 months. Who knows when/why these things start up again.

Karina said...

With my second child my periods returned about 6 or 7 months after birth when he had started sleeping through when we moved him into his own room. My third child selpt in our bed fed on demand and my periods returned at 4 months. I was quite sad about it and they are regular for the first time in my life. I'm not having any more children so the regular monthly reminderfeels like a kick in the teeth :(

Laura said...

I'm 12.5 months post-partum and no period yet. And for weeks or months on end, no breastfeeding at night, but only because DS is an eating machine during the day and sacks out at night. When he's sick or teething, though, a middle-of-the-night feed is normal.

Echo said...

Lucky, I say! : ) I have terrible PMS for about 5 days prior to my period (swelling, cravings, muscle aches, exhaustion followed by insomnia, high oil production, intestinal distress) and have been having odd, tiny periods already since my son was born less than four months ago. and yes, he nurses on demand- for the first month or so he drank formula too, but I used the pump whenever he had a bottle and nursed whenever I could get him to. And the periods didn't start until after we were full-time on-demand nursing.

14 months, huh? *sigh* I wish.

Cave Mother said...

Makes you wonder where the supposed 14 month average comes from doesn't it?

motherese says said...

I found your blog through "HoboMama's" link. I read your "About Me" and giggled a little. I have an 18month old that has been teaching me more than I her. She taught me about attachment parenting and on demand nursing. Life has been a little and I mean a little simpler since. She is my little "high-needs" baby. I love her so much for teaching me so much. Thanks for sharing.

Becks said...

Late commenting here but here goes. After my little boy was born my period hid away for 23 months. Even my GP was beginning to suggest that I might need a few hormone tests within the next month or two. But when it did arrive it must have brought super fertility with it as we had two no-play months to allow me to adjust back to "normality" and then I conceived on the third month, ie the first month of "lets leave it up to nature".
For that whole time Cain was nursing every couple of hours throughout the night and co-sleeping, which may be why it took so long. Oh and maybe my age too, being in my late 30's?

Anonymous said...

I got my first period about 3 - 4 months postpartum despite breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, etc. My child is also very high-needs and is still nowhere near sleeping through the night at nearly 11 months old. She is also not doing all that well on eating solids, so I breastfeed a few times a day. However, I refuse to believe my body is ready for another pregnancy as I had a c-section that took quite a long time to heal. But I just might be one of those insanely fertile women ... never even TTCed, it just happened. So that might be another variable. I would say do not worry about it. We are all different and all of these averages are just that ... averages of data collected from many different people.