It’s been quite a popular belief: you can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding. But, how accurate is this statement?
Many moms rely on breastfeeding as an efficient and natural method of contraception, calling it the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM). This contraceptive method is based on the fact that breast milk production hinders the ovaries from releasing an egg, thus preventing ovulation and the possibility of pregnancy. It is considered to be at least 98% effective, given that certain conditions are met.
Once the conditions change, however, LAM is no longer considered effective, which means that you need to start looking for another contraceptive method if you want to prevent pregnancy.
The average number of months before menstruation returns for a mom who has just given birth is 14.6; that is if you practice ecological breastfeeding. Otherwise, you can expect your period to return anywhere from 11 weeks to 24 months (or more) postpartum.
Still, the question remains: can you get pregnant while you are breastfeeding? The answer is yes. Unless you are relying on a separate contraceptive method other than LAM, there is a good chance that you’ll get pregnant, even while breastfeeding. This is especially so if you are still sexually active from the sixth month onward.
If you’re not using any other contraceptive and are solely relying on LAM, and you are sexually active as well, there is a good chance that you could get pregnant. However, since breastfeeding moms do not usually get their menstrual periods back immediately after birth, it can be hard to tell whether you are pregnant or not.
Of course, it would help you a lot if you keep track of the days when you and your partner have had contact and test regularly, just to make sure, but that can take up too much time, and it would cost too much to keep buying home pregnancy test kits too.
So, how can you tell if you are pregnant or not? Read on below to find out what the signs are for pregnancy in breastfeeding women.
Many of the signs and symptoms of pregnancy in breastfeeding women are the same with non-breastfeeding women. Case in point: tender breasts. Both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women tend to get tender and, sometimes, sore breasts as an early sign of pregnancy.
This is because your body becomes flooded with progesterone and hCG after an egg is fertilized. When this happens, there is an increase in blood volume that makes your breasts swell up. The increase in blood volume also makes your breasts feel heavier than usual.
Another thing that should look out for if you think you are pregnant while breastfeeding is the decrease in your milk production. According to one theory, the increased levels of progesterone present in pregnant women makes the alveoli permeable, making it unable to store milk properly.
This is the opposite of what happens during birth when the progesterone levels greatly drop, and the prolactin takes over, making the alveoli impermeable and efficient in storing milk for your baby’s consumption.
Due to decreased milk production, it may be necessary to start introducing formula to your child, especially if he is below six months old. If you plan on continuing to breastfeed him, you can add a supplementing formula to his feeding routine to make sure he is not being undernourished. Some of the top supplementing formula brands include Enfamil, Gerber, and Similac.
If your baby suddenly becomes fussy during feedings or refuses to drink your milk, you might want to check on it and give it yourself.
Around the third week of pregnancy, your milk may change in quality, and that includes taste, consistency, and color. From being naturally and perfectly sweet for your baby’s taste buds, it may become more salty or sour.
As far as consistency goes, it may get more watery than usual. If you express/pump milk regularly you may also observe that your milk will not be as white as it was a few weeks prior. Sometime around the second week of your pregnancy, you may start noticing that your breast milk’s quality reverts to that of colostrum.
One of the signs of pregnancy that you might find alarming while you are breastfeeding is implantation bleeding which occurs roughly between the sixth and twelfth week of gestation. Here are some of the differences that you can use as telltale signs of whether what you are seeing is implantation bleeding or menstrual bleeding.
This pregnancy symptom is relatively common among all women, non-breastfeeding or breastfeeding, but more so for the latter.
You’ve done some eating for two while you were pregnant with your other baby, but now that there’s another one on the way while your new baby is still nursing from you, you will need to eat for three!
If you notice that you’re getting hungry more frequently and that you are taking more naps than usual while you are breastfeeding, it could be a sign that you are pregnant. Yes, breastfeeding and watching your new baby alone can tire you out, but with a few naps during the day and some healthy snacks, your body should be able to handle that.
So, if you’re feeling a little more hungry and a little more tired than usual, be sure to take a test to see if you’re pregnant.
It is important to detect pregnancy early on while breastfeeding so you can take immediate action and get the right nutrition for everyone -- you, your new baby, and the little bun in the oven.
What do you think of pregnancy while breastfeeding? Do you think you can handle it? Or would you rather wait until your child is a bit more grown before you try for another baby? Tell us what you think in the comments, and let us know if you’ve had any experience with pregnancy while breastfeeding!
I’m Christina Simpson and I am a mother of 2 little princesses and a dear little boy. I like to write stuff on PassionMommy, a blog about parenting and motherhood that aims to help other moms in distress (that is, when I’m not at a tea party with my girls or looting treasures with my little pirate boy).