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Dear Dr Mitchell,
I had the return of my menses last month after delivering, and had unprotected sex immediately after my menses. I am breastfeeding my four-month-old exclusively. It's been a month now and I haven't seen my next period. Is this normal?
It is a fairly common thing for the menstrual period to be delayed and irregular while breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed their babies tend not to ovulate regularly and in some women ovulating is completely suppressed.
This should not be relied on as a form of contraception since ovulation occurs in up to 50 per cent of breastfeeding mothers and you can become pregnant if you do not use a regular form of contraception.
It is usually recommended that you use a method that has no oestrogen. The oestrogen in the contraception can sometimes reduce the breast milk volume and might be a problem if the baby is exclusively breast-fed. However, in the absence of other methods, the low dose contraceptive pill is a safe option. The use of the male or female condom, injectable contraception such as Depo-Provera, and the intrauterine contraceptive device, are safe options. In the event that you have unprotected intercourse then you can use the emergency contraception (Postinor 1 or Postinor 2) within 72 hours of the sexual activity to reduce the chance of an unplanned pregnancy.
It is quite possible that you are pregnant since you had an initial menstrual period and then had no menstrual period one month later. You should do a pregnancy test and consult your doctor to reconfirm.
If you are not pregnant then you need to have a consultation with your doctor and choose a reliable method of birth control that works well for both you and your partner.
Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org ; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 876-968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.