Can you get Pregnant while Breastfeeding?

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How does Breastfeeding Suppress Fertility?

When your baby starts to nurse less frequently, the breastfeeding hormones (prolactin) levels will drop. Once these Prolactin levels have dropped, the reproductive hormone levels will rise, leading to the return of fertility. Therefore, if you wish to suppress fertility you would need to keep Prolactin levels high. Detailed explanation of this here.

Breastfeeding has been used for centuries as a form of contraception. It's your body’s way of making sure that you do not have a baby before you are physically ready for one. This method of birth control is called lactational amenorrhea (LAM) BUT, there is a catch, you have to nurse according to a few rules to make sure that you do not end up with a “surprise pregnancy".

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Is this Method of Child Spacing really that Effective?

Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding & using LAM?

If you follow the “rules" mentioned below, LAM is 98% effective. In order for you to benefit from natural child spacing, you need to answer “no" to all of the below questions.

  • Has your period returned?
  • Are you supplementing with anything other than breast milk?
  • Is your baby sleeping through at night without breastfeeding?
  • Are there longer than three hour periods between nursing sessions?
  • Is your baby more than 6 months old?

As soon as the mother starts to answer yes to any one of these above questions, she will start to produce less of the hormone prolactin and her period might be on its way.

The women who follow the LAM rules, can suppress fertility for up to 14.5 months ( on average ). Some mothers only regain fertility by three years.


But can you get pregnant while breastfeeding even if you follow LAM?

The chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding...

Only about 5% of women will ovulate before their period returns. But the norm is that the first period is anovulatory (there is no release of an egg). If you are one of those 5%, you have a chance of becoming pregnant before your first period returns.

Tips on how to detect is you are ovulating, if you have not had a period

  • An increase in vaginal mucus.
  • Temperature changes. Body temperature rises during ovulation.
  • Any discharge that is pink or brown.

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Tips to Keep your Period Away

  • Breastfeed at least 8 times per day.
  • Allow comfort nursing wherever possible.
  • Nighttime nursings are most important. Breastfeeding hormones are at their highest between 1am and 6am. Co-sleeping with your baby can make this a lot easier. Avoid the use of pacifiers, bottles and the like.
  • Delay the introduction of solids for at least until your baby is 6 months old. And even then you should breastfeed first and offer solids afterwards.  

Once your period has returned, you can assume that you are now fertile and therefore, you should start to take precautions, unless you want to become pregnant again.

There are many available methods of contraception, but remember that some of them could decrease your milk supply. Read more about birth control methods while breastfeeding.

If you would like to try natural family planning, you should talk to your lactation consultant about it before the birth of your baby.

 
How to Encourage Fertility while Breastfeeding

It can get frustrating for those mothers who would like to fall pregnant while nursing. It is possible though to fall pregnant while exclusively breastfeeding, and this is how...

Most people will suggest that you suppress lactation to induce fertility, but fortunately there is a better way. You do not need to deprive your baby of milk to achieve fertility.

Your body thinks you are not ready to have another baby, but…

There is new research that suggests a correlation between what you eat and fertility. The theory is that if you shock your body into thinking that you are “okay" to fall pregnant again, it could encourage fertility. During these studies, they found that a larger than usual increase in food consumption could cause the return of a menstrual cycle.

These results are non-dependant on nursing frequency.

But, how is this possible?

Insulin levels have an effect on ovarian estrogen production. A sudden consumption in high energy dense foods will trigger insulin levels to rise and usually within a few weeks of doing this, the ovarian cycle will resume.

I encourage you not to eat empty calories, rather eat nutrient and vitamin rich foods. You can increase energy and insulin levels with good foods such as nuts, honey and coconut oil.

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References and Resources



Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with “can you get pregnant while breastfeeding"


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