I am a 38 year old mama to be (blessed to be pg w/#2 due in July).
When I was 37 I was still nursing my DS at 25 mos and then started to notice a number of symptoms, most notably that my periods which had just returned had stopped and that I was having near constant hot flashes (took me a while to figure out what they were). My midwife at first dismissed my concerns but agreed to a blood test and my FSH was well over the post menopausal range and my estrogen was so low it was undetectable. I was told I was likely in early menopause and my chances of conceiving were 10% over the next 10 years. My DH and I were completely devastated. Western medicine said there was nothing they could do for me, but did advise that we wean ASAP if we wanted any hope of trying to conceive again. We did wean, hard on all of us. A number of the docs I saw in the subsequent weeks thought extended breastfeeding might have been a factor -- obviously, most women do not have this reaction, many get pregnant while still nursing but they thought my physiology might have had a strange reaction to the extended nursing.
I looked into alternative treatments and started taking Chinese herbs and doing acupuncture. After a few months, my periods came back (twice) and I was so fortunate to get pregnant on the 2nd cycle, a week after I turned 38. THe docs explanation? I was still very fertile despite my "low egg count."
My question is, have any other mamas who have nursed for a long time experienced anything similar symptomwise? Of course I will want to nurse my new baby though perhaps for not as long? I don't want to be greedy but I have always wanted 3 kids...My DS has asthma and I wonder if the extended breastfeeding helped it to be less severe, so I don't want to "cheat" my new baby in case he could be at risk for the same and a shortened nursing span would mean worse asthma...I was thinking of trying exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months then starting to supplement. I didn't supplement ever with my DS. I have to work full time and I wonder too if exhaustion/stress/being run down might have contributed to the situation.
Anyhow I welcome thoughts, ideas, experiences, suggestions...I know I can't plan it all now but it was such a traumatic experience I want to avoid it happening again. Both DH and I are middle kids so we always wanted 3 to have a middle kids ourselves, silly I know but true.
No advice but I'm interested to hear more. I had chemo as a kid so am always anxious about early menopause (and infertility, before we got pg with no problems). Can you share more about the acupuncture and herbs you took? Good luck!! And congrats on your pregnancy!
Sarah ~ ds X 12/05 ~ dd E 3/08 ~ 7/12
Sure, check out Randine Lewis' book The Infertility Cure, I found this an extremely helpful resource. She also has a clinic in TX, I believe it's called Eastern Harmony and they have a website. Since Western Medicine basically dismisses you if they think you have EM/POF (Premature Ovarian Failure) and tells you to conider donor egg or adoption, this book was a godsend because it offered some hope. I saw a Chinese Herbalist and acupuncturist about 3x/month for several months. Every week he changed my herbal blend depending on how I was doing. I brewed a sort of tea out of the raw herbs and drank it twice a day. Evantually I switched to the powdered format which were a lot more convenient. My Chinese doc had gone to medical school in China in addition to being liscensed for acupuncture here and had already had success with one other woman who had a similar issue to mine. I believe the acupuncture helped to "awaken" things down there when I hadn't had a period in 175+ days. I feel like I crossed the sahara and found an oasis on the other side!
In any case, hopefully you'll never need this info, but I am glad to share it because it was through my own anecdotal research and other people's success stories that I chose this path and I am so grateful to be pregnant.
I'm having what seems like premature menopause symptoms. I always looked younger than my age. Since my daughter was born when I was 31 I've aged 20 years in 4 years. No exaggerations, I literally look 50 or older. I can't lose weight. I'm tired all the time. I have no interested in sex, I rarely even think about sex. My husband and I used to enjoy a very nice sex life. My hair and skin is dry. I'm constantly agitated. I have memory problems. I'm depressed. I have no energy to do anything. I'm lucky if I can shower. I have joint pain. And now my legs feel heavy and hard to move when I try to exercise. My periods are becoming bi-ovular again (this happened when I was 29). I have other problems I won't get into. It could be hypothyroidism. But my daughter who is almost 4 and most like has OCD and other anxiety issues won't wean. She's addicted to nursing. I just wonder if this way extended nursing is the culprit. Has I known she'd be addicted to it I would have gone with formula.
From my previous experience with dd, when she weaned, I started to feel better within a week (after the hormonal crash of course). I'm hoping this is the case this time as well when my DS weans, which looks like it may be soon.
And congrats on your pregnancy AutumnLeaves5!
Lucky mom to two
Hi dinahx, thanks for clearing up why we experience these feelings while breastfeeding, temporary low estrogen during the lactation period. Knowing that and being reminded of it has made me feel a lot better about it all! I don't think I was saying that formula was a cure for PCOS though, I was just wondering if the more extreme hormonal feelings were in some way related to me having PCOS and generally being a bit off balance with my hormones anyway, nothing to do with breastfeeding or formula, just to clear that up.
MamaDrama13, the soy link is interesting, hope you can see some improvement in how you feel. And how annoying to be ridiculed by your nurse, nursing moms need all the support we can get! My DS is self weaning very slowly and I've noticed that he's become constipated since he's cut down on his night nursing. I'm trying to work out if it's because of less breastmilk and that his system needs to get used to that or if it's because he's increased his cow's milk intake (he's discovered a love for yogurt). Am going to try goat's yogurt to see if it improves.
Breastmilk does soften their stools, and a good cure for constipation is to increase breastfeeds, but it's difficult when they're weaning.
Lucky mom to two
An interesting subject.
I'm a lactation consultant and I've never heard of breastfeeding causing menopause or peri-menopause. Yes, the female body is in a low estrogen state during the breastfeeding months before she starts menstruating again, but then the levels of estrogen and progesterone, even if she continues to breastfeed, usually level off to pre-pregnancy levels as she continues to menstruate.
Remember that in most of the world, and until the Industrial Revolution in the Western World, the average age that most children were allowed to wean on their own choice between 2 and 6 years old. It seems unlikely that all these women who nursed for years ALL went into perimenopause with every child they nursed for 2 years or more. It simply makes no sense.
Also, peri-menopause is a very different state than menopause. Peri-menopause are the years leading up to menopause (sometimes as many as 15 years or more) when the body stops ripening eggs and gradually thins the uterine lining and slowly tapers off menstruating, Gradually is the key word here. Menopause is the complete cessation of ovulation and menstruation for a period of at least 12 months.
I've been in peri-menopause for 11 years. I started at 40 (yes, I was nursing a toddler, but that was nothing new, I've nursed a lot of toddlers, this one just happened to be nursing when my body naturally went into peri-menopause) and I'm still in perimenopause at 51, still menstruating most months, and at my last hormone check 2 years ago, I was still fertile (although my doc doesn't think I'd be able to successfully implant and sustain a pregnancy at this age.)
I think as women have children later and later in life, and more women are opting for child led weaning, peri-menopause simply happens at the time it would have anyway and some of us are by coincidence still breastfeeding a child.
MamaDrama, the nurse was very disrespectful of you to not understand that what so many term "long term" nursing is really just.... normal! I'm sorry you had to go through that. And, yes, human milk is quite laxative and it's not uncommon for some children to have firmer harder stools as they wean. I made sure my children got plenty of soluble fiber and lots of water to drink during their weanings. I agree that Miralax is great stuff for kids who have problems with stooling. My youngest had an abnormal type of constipation since infancy and Miralax was a great help to us. She even got constipated while breastfeeding (we found out red dye in the Motrin I was giving her for teething was at least partly at fault and 13 years ago, I had to have a compounding pharmacy make up Tylenol and Motrin for her with no colors in it.)
I'm glad I could help. I agree that the demonization of sleep sharing often contributes to breastfeeding failure. I see it in my clients and in my friends. One can only stay awake or only get by on a few hours of sleep for so long. I strongly urge my clients and even show them how to nurse lying down, and I would say 75% of them then ask me, "But, what if I fall asleep?" I usually just say, "Then you'll get more sleep."
I often will ask these new Mamas, "Do you fall out of bed?"
The answer is invariably, "No, of course not."
I then ask, "Why don't you fall out of bed when you are in a sound sleep?"
The answer is usually, "I.... know where the edge of the bed is?"
And then I answer, "Of course! And, you also know that your baby is in bed with you and where he is, even in a sound sleep... and so does your partner. It's instinct." I always hope this little "lesson" will stick with them even if nothing else I say does.
MaggieLC, thanks for your post.It's really interesting and reassuring. I'm 45, breastfeeding my 2 year old daughter and have been experiencing perimenopausal symptoms for the last 6 months. Our society's attitude towards extended breastfeeding fascinates and irritates me and I constantly remind myself that globally these attitudes are in the minority. 80% of the World breastfeed and bedshare yet when I had my first child the latter was being demonised by the media whilst paradoxically breastfeeding was being actively promoted. The 2 go hand in hand and I'm certain this plays an enormous part in the majority of women giving up breastfeeding in the first few weeks. I too think i would have done the same if id had to get out of bed 10 times a night. My daughter is still nightfeeding and it might be worth mentioning that she was conceived at 42 while I was still breastfeeding my son. Anyway, I guess I'm digressing, just wanted to say thanks for the reassurance that breastfeeding is not a component inthe onset of the perimenopause.
Mamdrama13, cut the soy asap!! I remember the havoc it wreaked with my cycle when I was ttc for my third child. My cycles were regular, and I was fertile, with abundant fertile cervical mucus, and all whilst breastfeeding. I was over 40 too, and NOT getting pregnant each month I tried. I read about soy isoflavones can boost your ovulation (if it is weak, late, non existent), by blocking estrogen receptors, and tricking your body into thinking your estrogen is low, tricking it into making more estrogen.(temporarily, but with continued use it lessens your estrogen production) This is the same principle as clomid. The usual dose of clomid is 50mg. For soy isoflavones, they recommend 100mg. It is to be taken in general at days 4-7 of your cycle.
One cup of soy milk contains 31mg of soy isoflavones, that’s a lot already right there, that you are eating regularly.
I took 75mg of soy isoflavones on days 4-7 of my cycle, and it delayed my ovulation (never happened before), and eliminated any egg white cervical mucus for months on end.
You could say I was over 40, but I did get pregnant finally at age 44, a year after I took those soy isoflavones.
Steer clear of soy!!! Its powerful. There are other reasons to avoid it too. Your diet may be highly estrogenic because you are vegetarian-legumes tend to be estrogenic (that’s why they taste so good) Look up GAPS and fertility as well.
Ie, if estrogenic, it blocks estrogen receptors, and can mean you don’t produce enough real estrogen in the long term, but it cn trick your body into increasing estrogen if taken at certain days in your cycle)
I had dd1 when I was almost 36, and I practiced child-led breastfeeding and weaning (I also did with dd2), and it definitely did affect my fertility, although I naturally wasn't sure till later whether it was the breastfeeding or just my age. We very much wanted another child (actually a few more!), but I also felt confident that I'd have the number of children I was meant to have, and continued breastfeeding.
I didn't get my first postpartum period until dd1 was 21 months old (with dd2, it actually didn't come until she was 2 1/2).
When dd1 was about three, I had what I thought at the time was a "weird period," but which I later realized was an early miscarriage, after recalling that it was pretty much identical to the two early miscarriages that I later had in my early and mid forties. Also, at around the same time, I can't remember if it was before or after the miscarriage, I had a hot flash in the middle of the night. It was about ten years ago, and It's the only hot flash I've had thus far.
A couple of months after dd1 turned four, I noticed that she was sometimes going for long stretches, including at least one stretch of 48 hours, without wanting to nurse, and it was soon after this that I realized that I was pregnant. Dd2 was born a couple of months before I turned 41, so my girls are nearly five years apart in age.
I'm 49 now and am still having regular periods, though I imagine I'm pretty much infertile.