When does fertility return after childbirth

If you are a young mum what bothers you is how long do you remain infertile after giving birth. Postpartum infertility is physiological and natural one. It  is determined by prolactin - the hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. This hormone controls the production of milk in the mammary gland and its adaptation to the changing needs of the child. The prolactin level depends on the intensity of the nipple stimulation by a sucking child, that is the frequency, length and quality of breastfeeding. The more intense sucking, the more prolactin is secreted by the pituitary gland and the greater amount of food is produced. The  sufficiently high prolactin level inhibits the secretion of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which is responsible for the growth and maturation of follicles in the ovary.

The moment of fertility returning after childbirth depends primarily on lactation, whether your baby is breastfed or given modified milk, and whether the breastfeeding is partial or full.

  • According to the LAM method, in the case of full breastfeeding postpartum infertility is 84 days, or 12 weeks.
  • If the breastfeeding is partial or you don’t breastfeed at all, you can assume that the period of postpartum infertility takes six weeks.

If you do not breastfeed your baby, then the level of prolactin produced by the pituitary gland is quite low and therefore  its blocking effect on the process of growing follicles is small. The symptoms of fertility may occur as early as 5-6 weeks after giving birth. Before the first menstrual period after birth the biphasic cycles return as well, initially with a shortened phase of higher temperatures and they are often longer than they used to be.

In the case of the partial breastfeeding the 6 weeks period after birth was assumed as a postpartum infertility, unless during the sixth week the occurrence of any cervical mucus can be observed.

If the breastfeeding is full, maintaining the conditions described below, the high prolactin level inhibits the growth and maturation of ovarian follicles and postpartum infertility lasts at least 12 weeks, i.e. 84 days. The occurrence of  mucus symptoms at the time does not have to be taken into account.

The full breastfeeding conditions are: (met together)
• at least 5-6 feedings per day,
• total feeding duration must be at least 100 minutes a day,
• the intervals between feedings (also at night) should not be longer than 6-7 hours,
• a baby is not given any additional food or liquid other than mother’s milk.

Please note that not meeting any of the above full breastfeeding conditions may lower the  prolactin level and the gradual returning of fertility even before the end of 12 weeks postpartum infertility period.
You should also know that feeding a child with silicone nipple shields or mechanical pumping does not replace breastfeeding and cannot be regarded as a condition of full breastfeeding.

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