The aim of the study was to test the effect of increasing the frequency of breastfeeding upon ovarian function following the end of postpartum amenorr‐hoea. Women exclusively breastfeeding (n= 14) who experienced their first postpartum menstruation between the third and fifth month after delivery were randomly allocated to an experimental (n= 7) and a control (n= 7) group and studied during the next two cycles. Women in the experimental group agreed to increase the number of breastfeeding episodes per day throughout the second cycle. Blood samples were drawn twice a week from the first to the third postpartum menstruation for prolactin, oestradiol and progesterone determinations. The number of breastfeeding episodes per day and night and the length of each episode were recorded daily. An average frequency of 11 nursing episodes per 24 h was reported during the first study cycle in both groups. The experimental group increased by 50% the breastfeeding frequency after the second menstruation while the control group kept its spontaneous feeding pattern. The increase of suckling frequency occurred mainly during day hours. The total breastfeeding time per 24 h was not increased. The length of the menstrual cycle was not altered by the increased suckling frequency. The endocrine pattern differed neither between the first and second cycle of the experimental group nor between the experimental and control group, with the exception of PRL levels which were higher in the experimental group throughout both cycles. Twenty cycles (71%) showed progesterone values compatible with ovulation (> 9.5 nmol/l). The highest progesterone values and the highest oestradiol values observed in the ovulatory cycles of lactating women were within the range found in non‐nursing fertile women. Plasma levels of PRL were significantly elevated in all cycles but one, in comparison with PRL levels in non‐nursing women. It is concluded that if cyclic ovarian function is reestablished early in fully nursing women, a mere increase in the number of breastfeeding episodes, without augmenting total suckling time and the frequency of nocturnal episodes, does not provide a sufficient stimulus to re‐suppress the pituitary‐ovarian axis.
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - May 1988|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism