How Long Should I Wait to Conceive After Weaning

Question

I had a miscarriage a few weeks ago, and I believe that it is very possible it was due to low hormone levels. I had been breastfeeding my two-year-old and trying to get her to wean when I got pregnant. I had been trying for almost a year to conceive and read to take Vitamin B if you are breastfeeding to help get pregnant again. I took it for about a week and a half (figuring what harm could that do?) and then stopped. But I did get pregnant right away on that cycle. I finally did wean my daughter when I was about five weeks pregnant, but lost the baby six weeks later. I want to try again but am afraid that I will have another miscarriage if my hormones are still affected by the breastfeeding.
My two-year-old is totally weaned, but I am still producing quite a bit of milk. I was wondering if it is normal to still be producing milk after weaning about eight weeks ago. Will my hormone levels go back to normal once weaned or after I stop producing milk? Should I take any precautions in trying to conceive again? I know to wait a couple months.

Thank you for answering my questions. I am living in a foreign country, so it is hard for me to talk to my doctor who does not speak much English. My husband and I are so heartbroken over this miscarriage. By the way, I am 40.

Margaret

Answer

Dear Margaret,

We offer our sincere condolences for your loss. We understand the heartbreak of miscarriage, having experienced this ourselves at age 41.

Breastfeeding in most instances is not a factor in miscarriage. Once a woman begins regular cycling after childbirth, hormone levels usually are sufficient to sustain a pregnancy, and breastfeeding doesn’t affect this for most women. Many women continue to nurse during their next pregnancy, sometimes even continuing on to tandem nurse, with no ill effects. But there is very little research on this, so we don’t actually know to what degree hormone levels are affected by nursing, and to what degree an individual woman is affected.

It is normal to continue to produce some milk after weaning, gradually decreasing, and in fact you may still be able to express drops of milk even years later. You don’t say if you suspect low hormone levels for any other reason. However, some women due to older age or conditions such as PCOS may experience lowered levels of progesterone, and these factors in addition to nursing can affect fertility or susceptibility to miscarriage. Also, developing a low thyroid condition after giving birth is very common, and can cause miscarriage. Charting your fertility signs will help you determine this. If you are following an NFP method we would encourage you to chart carefully and submit your charts for review with an NFP practitioner. If you haven’t yet learned how to observe and chart fertility symptoms and are unable to locate NFP instruction near you, Couple to Couple League offers a home study course available from www.ccli.org; or you may search online for other organizations offering similar information. In addition, a physician could measure your hormone levels and see if they are adequate.

Please write again if we can be of further help.

Andrea and Ron Gronsky

Answered By:

Andrea and Ron Gronsky
Andrea and Ron Gronsky, PhD, Professional Members of CANFP,now retired, taught the Sympto Thermal Method through the Couple to Couple League, in the Oakland Region.

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