Can You Get Pregnant When Breastfeeding?

You just had a baby. You’re starting to get the hang of being a mama and breastfeeding your baby. Then a curveball hits. 

The pregnancy test isn’t lying. You’re pregnant. Whoa, how is that even possible? Can you get pregnant when breastfeeding?

Can You Get Pregnant When Breastfeeding? Can You Get Pregnant When Breastfeeding? - Pregnant Woman

It is not as likely, but it can certainly happen. It is possible to get pregnant anytime after about three weeks of giving birth. 

A lot of women are less fertile in the early weeks and months when breastfeeding because certain hormone levels are reduced which are needed for pregnancy. These hormones are gonadotrophin-releasing hormone and luteinizing hormone. The more your baby is eating the lower these hormone levels will be which also means your chance of getting pregnant is reduced. 

Your chances of conception are especially low if your baby is under six months old and exclusively breastfeeding day and night. Exclusive breastfeeding means that your baby is only receiving breast milk and you aren’t pumping or supplementing with formula. 

Sometimes there is further delay infertility because breastfeeding can suppress ovulation. When you are breastfeeding, your body produces the hormone prolactin to help make milk. Prolactin suppresses hormones that facilitate ovulation, estrogen, and progesterone. 

LAM (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) as Birth Control

The lactational amenorrhea method or LAM is a form of natural birth control. It is a temporary amount of time after you have given birth where your body stops menstruating. This temporary birth control method relies on exclusive and frequent breastfeeding. 

Some women only experience this phenomenon for the first few months of exclusive breastfeeding. Though not as common other women can experience it well over a year. Every mom is different based on how her body functions. 

Effectiveness of LAM

It is not a 100% method even if it is understood and implemented correctly. But it can be highly effective. It is 98% effective when it is used correctly. (1) There are three conditions that must be met in order to in order for this method to have a chance to work. 

The Three Conditions of LAM

1. Your menstrual cycle has not returned yet. 

2. Your baby must be under six months of age. 

3. You must be exclusively breastfeeding your baby. This means your baby cannot have formula. And your baby must be on the breast at least every four hours during the day and at night at least every six hours. 

If any of these conditions are broken, then you need to realize that LAM is no longer an effective or reasonable method for you anymore. It would be wise to look at other birth control methods if you are not wanting to have another baby yet. 

When Does Your Period Come Back?

Can You Get Pregnant When Breastfeeding? - Date Circled in Red

Every woman is different. It could come back anywhere from 3 months to a year or longer. There are some things that could speed up the process of your period returning but is not a guarantee. 

Why Your Period Could Return Sooner:

  • Your baby is sleeping through the night.
  • Your baby is not nursing overnight or less overnight.
  • You have started nursing less.
  • You are supplementing with formula. 
  • Your baby is starting on solid foods.
  • If you go for more than four hours without breastfeeding during the day.
  • If you go for more than six hours without breastfeeding at night. 
  • If your breastfeeding schedule gets interrupted for any reason. 

Signs of Ovulation, Even if Your Period Hasn’t Returned

Most women will have menstrual blood as their first clue that their fertility is returning to normal followed by signs of ovulation. While other women will have signs of ovulation before they notice menstrual blood. 

Signs of Ovulation:

  • Sensitive breasts
  • Bloating
  • Increase in cervical mucus
  • Spikes in body temperature also called basal body temperature
  • Cramping in your lower pelvic area
  • Increase in libido

If Your Period Hasn’t Returned Yet While Breastfeeding, Can You Still Get Pregnant?

Technically yes, it is possible. In your monthly cycle, menstruation comes after ovulation. So an absence of Aunt Flo does not eliminate the fact that you could be ovulating at any point. 

It is much more common to ovulate two weeks before you get your period. So if you decide to wait to start using birth control until after your period starts, then it might be too late to prevent pregnancy.

If You Aren’t Ready to Get Pregnant

You might be asking can you get pregnant when breastfeeding because you are not ready to get pregnant yet. If this is the case, then you need to decide what birth control option you would like to use. Because you have an 85% chance of getting pregnant within a year even if you are breastfeeding. (2)

If You Want to Be Pregnant

On the other hand, you might be asking can you get pregnant when breastfeeding because you want to get pregnant again. If this is the case, it is important to give your body time to fully recover from childbirth. Doctors advise that you wait at least 18 months after you have given birth before trying to conceive again. (3)

If your period has not returned, but you want to get pregnant there are some things that you can try to help your fertility to return. to return.

Tips to Help Your Fertility Return

1. Reduce the duration of nursing.

2. Start tracking your cycle – use a calendar, an application, or an ovulation test.

3. Try night weaning.

4. Go at least six hours without breastfeeding at night.

5. Reduce daytime nursing. 

6. Increase your baby’s solid intake to decrease the demand for milk.

7. Reduce your stress levels.

You’re Pregnant! Can Breastfeeding Interfere with the Pregnancy?

Once you become pregnant it is generally considered safe to continue breastfeeding. (4) Sometimes women experience cramping while breastfeeding. This is due to the release of oxytocin, the same hormone responsible for contractions. 

The concern is that this can cause preterm labor in rare cases. This is unlikely, but you should let your care provider know if you are experiencing regular or painful contractions to rule out interference with your pregnancy. 

Conclusion

It is possible to get pregnant even when you are still breastfeeding. There are factors that can complicate this process and make it more difficult to conceive again. But if you are not wanting to get pregnant, then you will want to look into birth control options. 

 

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