How breastfeeding affects menstruation and fertility

Q: I’m a new mom, and I’ve been breast-feeding for 2½ months. When should I expect my period to resume?

A:  Breast-feeding certainly can affect menstrual cycles, and you’re actually asking a question that’s difficult to answer. Some women do not menstruate at all while they are breast-feeding, and it is considered normal to wait up to six months after finishing breast-feeding for menstrual periods to resume. If more than six months go by after you finish breast-feeding and you still have not gotten your period, ask your caregivers to check on how your ovaries are working.

Some women, however, seem to have incredibly hardy ovaries, and they start having periods two months after the baby, breast-feeding or not. Most important is how this question relates to fertility. Breast-feeding in general does make you less fertile – however, it does not make you infertile. Even women who breast-feed exclusively can get pregnant. When somebody tells me that she is not planning on using contraception because she is breast-feeding, and “knows she won’t get pregnant,” I always mention one of my favorite friends who, when faced with that statement, would point to her two sons, who were 10 months apart in age.

So I always tell breast-feeding moms to be prepared for periods at any time, but not to be upset if they aren’t around.

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