Knowing the signs of ovulation while breastfeeding, may help you control pregnancy.
You may wonder if you can use breastfeeding as birth control after giving birth. This is a method of birth control that people have believed in for centuries.
But can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Yes, many women begin ovulating while breastfeeding and can get pregnant. Breastfeeding is a form of natural contraceptive, but it does not work for everyone.
Breastfeeding can have a direct effect on your body in the early period after giving birth. Hormones control milk production, the release of new eggs, and getting ready for a new baby.
Breastfeeding can reduce some of these hormones. That can lower the chances of getting pregnant for some women, but not all.
Breastfeeding can be a form of birth control if all steps are met. This method is the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).
For this approach to be successful:
LAM is a birth control option for mothers in the first six months after the baby is born.
After six months, the chances of success go down a lot. Studies have shown that two out of 100 women can still get pregnant while hitting all three areas.
This probability is similar to other contraceptives or birth control methods, based on how effective they can be.
Some affect hormones while others do not. The following birth control methods are listed from most effective to least effective:
Less than 1 pregnancy reported in 100 women/year:
6-12 pregnancies in 100 women/year:
18 or more pregnancies in 100 women/year
All of these methods depend on accurate use. None are fully effective if not used as directed.
Breastfeeding does not prevent your menstrual cycle from returning. While this seems to happen for some women, it does not happen in all women. Everyone is different. Others find their cycle returns 4-6 weeks after giving birth while breastfeeding.
Your body is changing now that the baby is born.
A lot changes over nine months while the baby is developing. Now, during what is often called the ‘fourth trimester’, there are many changes again. After your baby is born, your body works to return to a nonpregnant state. Not the same as it was, but that of a non-pregnant woman.
As the body goes through all of these changes, the hormones go up and down.
Ovulation is when your ovary releases the egg and it moves toward the uterus. The egg stays in the fallopian tube for 12-24 hours waiting for fertilization by the sperm. This usually occurs around 12-14 days before your menstrual cycle. If the egg is not fertilized, it passes out during the period.
Signs of ovulation may be hard to notice in the first six weeks after giving birth due to bleeding and lochia. Some women do not ovulate before six weeks, but others do.
It is important to know that pregnancy is possible during this time. Providers encourage women not to begin sexual activity until after their six-week follow-up. Though many do before that visit.
Ovaries release the egg before your period happens. It can help to know your cycle and when the egg comes. You might miss ovulation if you aren’t sure when this will happen.
If you don’t know your regular cycle, here are some signs that can help you determine if you are ovulating:
Since ovulation happens before your first period, you should not expect to have your period as a sign that you will need to watch for ovulation. If attempting to use ovulation methods as birth control options, keep this in mind.
So, can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
The answer is yes and no.
If done right, LAM can be an effective birth control method. But, not every woman will go a full six months without her menstrual cycle returning. You can get pregnant while breastfeeding before your period returns since you ovulate first and only then get your period.
If the conditions are right, yes, pregnancy can happen while breastfeeding. If you see signs of ovulation, you have the possibility of getting pregnant. Some women have reported that they did not have a period and got pregnant.
If your period returns at any point during breastfeeding, LAM is no longer a birth control option for you. You can get pregnant without the use of a barrier or birth control.
When your baby reaches 6 months old or starts eating other foods, you end the LAM and can get pregnant.
Exclusive breastfeeding recommendations are until the baby is 6 months old. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed through the first year or more. If you breastfeed after the first six months, LAM is no longer an effective birth control method. You could get pregnant any time after this.
As above, breastfeeding is recommended for the first year. Many mothers choose to breastfeed this long or longer.
In most healthy pregnancies, breastfeeding is encouraged. Generally, it will not cause any problems for you, your growing baby, or your pregnancy.
Becoming pregnant does not mean you need to stop breastfeeding. Many breastfeeding mothers will breastfeed during their pregnancy.
Some continue to breastfeed both the new baby and the older child together. Others may wean the older child at some point before the new baby arrives. These are personal choices.
This is a safe choice unless your provider says you have a high-risk pregnancy. Experts report there is no truth to the reports that breastfeeding while pregnant can cause early labor.
If at any point you have concerns, contact your doctor.