Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
A sister recently asked me about my own experiences with natural spacing of pregnancies. I thought this might make a good post for others as well. As a mother of eight, it is probably easy to guess that I don't employ the use of pharmaceutical birth controls. But that wasn't always the case.
Insha'Allah, I will have a guest writer (either here or on Saudi Life Motherhood) in the coming weeks who will discuss contraceptives in more depth. I always enjoy sharing the work of guest writers. Please let me know if you are interested in contributing. Now on to my post...Natural Pregnancy Spacing...
It is important to note that this post is a recount of my personal experiences. It is not meant to be advice for anyone else. Each women must weigh the risks and benefits in her own situation, consider her medical condition and life situation, and most importantly consult with her partner as well as her medical team before making contraceptive decisions.
There are so many forms of birth control available today. Before my first pregnancy, I used several different contraceptive methods (birth control). Condom use was the least convenient; but also tampered the least with my health and reproductive system. I don't know the pharmaceutical names of the various pills I've taken, but I've had my fair share of different ones. I even used Depo-Provera injections; which I took for about two years.
At that time of my life, I was not "ready" for children, although I was married. I enjoyed the convenience of the Depo injections as it involved only a fifteen-minute trip to my gynecologist once every three months and was so much easier than remembering to take a pill every day.
I also liked the side effect of the Depo, as it suppresses menstruation. Not having to worry about my period seemed so carefree and convenient. However, looking back, it's really quite scary to realize that I voluntarily allowed an injection that interferes so greatly in my reproductive system that it completely stops menstruation.
Yikes! I really was so trusting of all things medical (and naive) in those days. In fact, it took about seven months for my period to return after ceasing the injections and about a year and a half to get pregnant.
At that time I was young and not Muslimah. I thought I had total control over the planning of my life. Of course, without knowledge of Allah, I had no trust in HIS plan or HIS promise of provision.
[Translation of Qur'an 6:151]
"...and do not kill your children for fear of poverty - [for] it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them..."
"Narrated Ma'qil ibn Yasar:
...(the Prophet) said: Marry women who are loving and very prolific [producing many offspring], for I shall outnumber the peoples by you."
I am among the fortunate: not only was I guided to find Islam, but I was also able to recover from my contraceptive use and have many children, alhamdulelah. For many others, the inability to get pregnant after contraceptive use is far longer, or even permanent in some cases, audthobillah.
For those of you who have not had children, did not nurse, or simply did not experience lactational amenorrhoea (delayed return of menses while nursing), I will simply say that it is a nice perk to nursing. It truly is carefree and convenient to not have to worry about your period and know that it is NATURAL (as opposed to pharmaceutical) suppression, subhanAllah.
However, the obstetrician for my second birth said it best when he told me, "Use the lactational amenorrhoea method only so much as you are not devastated should you find yourself pregnant again."
For me nursing seems to delay my next pregnancy by 8 to 12 months, but not much beyond that. This is true even though I did not experience my menses while nursing seven of the eight children. Here is my history with this, to help you understand:
1. My menses returned 12 months after my first birth, at the same time baby self-weaned from my breast. I became pregnant during the month after this one menses.
2. My menses never returned after my second birth, as I became pregnant while nursing when the baby was about 10 months old. I continued nursing her until about 15 months, when she self-weaned. Interestingly, I did not realize I was pregnant with the third until she kicked (about four months pregnant) since I had no classic signs of pregnancy (no menses missed, and was still nursing so no sore breasts).
3. My menses never returned after my third birth, as I became pregnant while nursing when the baby was about 10 months old. I continued nursing her until about 16 months, when she self-weaned.
4. My menses never returned after my fourth birth, as I became pregnant while nursing when the baby was about 18 months old. I continued nursing him until about 23 months, when I weaned him.
5. My menses returned about 12 months after my fifth birth. I did not become pregnant as I was divorced from my husband very soon after his birth. I continued nursing him until about 26 months, when he self-weaned.
6. Strange to me, my menses returned right away after my sixth birth. I just attributed that to having a new husband, but the strange pattern did not recur with our subsequent children. I became pregnant while nursing when the baby was about 16 months old (I probably would have conceived sooner, except that my husband and I were residing in different countries at the time and I only saw him every few months). I continued nursing him throughout the entire pregnancy until about 25 months, when he self-weaned. He tandem nursed with his younger brother for about one month.
7. Menses never returned after my seventh birth, as I became pregnant while nursing when the baby was about 8 months old. I continued nursing him until about 15 months, when he self-weaned.
8. My menses has not returned since the birth of my eighth baby, 9 1/2 months ago. I am not pregnant, that I know of, but wouldn't be surprised if I turn up pregnant in the next few months or so. Allahu alim.
So in conclusion, it is entirely possible and probable to conceive while nursing, even if the menses has not returned. It is not a method to rely on, however, it does seem to allow for "adequate" spacing of pregnancies. At least in my case and in my opinion of "adequate," and Allah knows best.