Congratulations on welcoming your beautiful baby into the world! You probably have a long list of questions and might be already wondering when you’ll have a full sleep. One question you might have is, ‘can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?’ and we’re here to let you know.
This article includes:
- Contraception after the birth of your baby
- Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
- LAM criteria
- Signs of pregnancy while breastfeeding
- What are the chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding?
- How does breastfeeding lower the chances of pregnancy?
- What is ovulation?
- Can I get pregnant if I don’t have my period back yet after birth?
- What will my period be like after birth?
Contraception after the birth of your baby
Contraception may not be at the forefront of your mind just yet, but there are reasons why you might consider it. Many women want to wait a while after giving birth before getting pregnant again. To support this, they tend to consider using a form of birth control.
There are many contraceptive options available. Some contain hormones, while others are non-hormonal. It’s about what works best for you when choosing a birth control method, though some may be more appropriate than others.
After birth, you can talk to a healthcare professional about your options. They may suggest avoiding birth control methods with estrogen in some cases.
Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Many people believe you cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding, but that’s not always true. The method of regularly breastfeeding exclusively could give you higher protection from pregnancy. This is called the Lactational Amenorrhea method or LAM.
To be truly using LAM, your baby should be fed using only breast milk and not have any formula. Feeding with both breast milk and formula does not offer the same protection to prevent pregnancy.
While you do have a higher level of protection from only breastfeeding, it’s not a 100% protective measure. Some women may still get pregnant despite breastfeeding and not having a menstrual period. A woman can become fertile again just three weeks after the baby’s birth without breastfeeding or birth control.
If you know that you aren’t looking to get pregnant again soon after giving birth, it may be suitable to seek contraception. It’s completely your choice, and professionals can advise you at the hospital. Alternatively, you may wish to get some form of birth control from a GP or clinic.
- Baby must be less than six months old (LAM only works in the first six months postpartum)
- Only feeding the baby breast milk (at least every 4 hours in the day and at least every 6 hours at night)
- Mother has no periods
LAM becomes much less reliable if these certain criteria are no longer met. When you stop breastfeeding exclusively, you could consider birth control for preventing pregnancy. Find out: can you refreeze breast milk?
Signs of pregnancy while breastfeeding
Pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding are very similar to those you would typically experience. One thing that can make things more tricky to spot is that you’re now busy with your newborn!
A missed period is often the first sign of pregnancy. This one is certainly a tricky one if you haven’t noticed your periods in their usual pattern yet.
In pregnancy, this is also referred to as morning sickness. Morning sickness can make you feel under the weather and generally not great. It’s best to rest and eat a balanced diet if you can.
Again, tiredness is a tricky one to spot, and it’s likely you’re already tired with a newborn baby! When pregnant, tiredness can feel like a whole new level of exhaustion.
When breastfeeding, you may already experience some soreness in the breasts. This is also another sign of pregnancy while breastfeeding.
If you experience these pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding, the best thing to do is take a pregnancy test. You can also discuss any symptoms with a healthcare provider if you wish to. Home pregnancy tests have high levels of accuracy and will detect the amount of hCG in your urine.
Sometimes there’s little point in asking friends, ‘what were your pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding’ because everyone is different!
What are the chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding?
So what are the chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding?
When correctly using LAM, you can experience higher levels of protection from pregnancy. However, you must follow all criteria, such as exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months. Your healthcare provider will give you a full breakdown if you ask them.
Your chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding may be low. However, if you know you want to wait before getting pregnant again, it may be best to consider birth control. Some methods can be out of your system fairly quickly if you decide to have another baby.
How does breastfeeding lower the chances of pregnancy?
Exclusive breastfeeding reduces the chances of pregnancy due to it stopping the body from ovulating. Remember, this is only the case when strictly following the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM).
It’s also important to remember that this method can only work to prevent pregnancy when actually nursing your baby. This means that pumping breast milk will not have the same contraceptive effect.
You’re probably aware of the role that hormones play during pregnancy. The hormones oxytocin and prolactin work by preventing the release of an egg while breastfeeding. This means ovulation may not occur for breastfeeding mothers.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation occurs each month at a specific time in your cycle. Everyone’s menstrual cycle is different; however, most women ovulate around 12 days before the next period. The process of ovulating involves the ovaries releasing an egg. When trying for a baby, the egg may become fertilised, and pregnancy can occur.
When you are ovulating, you experience a slippery clear discharge. You also experience this discharge whilst pregnant. To tell the difference between discharge before your period and whilst pregnant, you can read our article Discharge Before Period VS Early Pregnancy.
In contrast, some contraceptive methods impede the ovaries’ ability to release an egg. They may increase the thickness of vaginal mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to travel through.
Some women experience hyperovulation, which is when the ovaries release more than one egg. This can result in twins.
Your ovulation pattern can be monitored using ovulation tests. This can help those who are trying to conceive or those wanting to know more about their cycle.
Can I get pregnant if I don’t have my period back yet after birth?
The amount of time it takes for a period to return after birth varies for everyone. Some women may have a period in a couple of months, while others may be waiting longer. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to make your period or fertility return faster. Instead, you can look after yourself and try to stay calm about it.
Many believe that you must have a period for pregnancy to occur, and while this can be the case, there are other ways. For women experiencing irregular periods, for example, after giving birth, your fertile window occurs before the period would. This means you could ovulate before the period begins again.
What will my period be like after birth?
For women who use formula milk, periods may come back sooner than those who breastfeed. Your first postpartum period may still be irregular and heavier than what you had before pregnancy. You may also experience worse cramping during menstruation, which can also be a sign of early pregnancy. Take things slow when your period returns, and try to rest.
Everyone is different and experiences things in various ways. The best thing to do is seek professional advice if you are worried about anything. Try not to compare yourself to others on things that happen after birth – you’re doing a great job.
So, can you get pregnant while breastfeeding? Technically yes, but you do have a higher level of protection if you follow LAM. Without birth control and breastfeeding, you could become pregnant just three weeks after giving birth. Find out more about clogged milk ducts when breastfeeding – will a clogged milk duct eventually dry up?
As we said earlier, women who know they want to wait before getting pregnant may choose to use birth control. The choice is completely yours, and professionals will be available to answer any questions and support you.
We hope this article has been useful for you and hope you enjoy getting to know your little one!
Hey there, I’m Abigail!
I recently graduated with a degree in Marketing. I’m currently a freelance blogger and Marketing Assistant. I love learning new things and hope that you find my blogs useful and informative.
See you in the next article!