Nearly 30% of mamas in the U.S. conceive within 18 months of giving birth. But can you get pregnant while breastfeeding? In a word, yes. Here’s how.
I just had a baby, but… I’m looking at a positive pregnancy test. How can that be? Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding!?
In a word, yes.
Here’s everything you need to understand your fertility while breastfeeding, including:
Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
Even though it’s not as likely, you most certainly can get pregnant while breastfeeding.
- In most cases, breastfeeding women are not fertile (not ovulating) for approximately six weeks immediately following birth.
- In some cases, breastfeeding further delays fertility because it often suppresses ovulation.
How? When you’re breastfeeding, your body produces prolactin to help make milk. This hormone suppresses hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, that facilitate ovulation. The more you breastfeed, the more prolactin you produce and the less likely you are to become pregnant.
Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding When Using LAM?
LAM stands for ‘Lactational Amenorrhea Method,’ a temporary amount of time after birth when the body does not menstruate.
LAM is a temporary contraceptive method that relies on exclusive breastfeeding (no pumping, no formula).
Most breastfeeding moms experience lactational amenorrhea for at least the first few months of exclusive breastfeeding. Though not as common, some moms experience LAM for well over a year. It’s different for everyone, based on how their bodies function.
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How Effective is LAM?
LAM can be a highly effective form of birth control if understood and used correctly, though even with perfect understanding and use, it is not a 100 percent method.
Studies show LAM is 98 to 99.5 percent effective when used properly. There are three conditions that must be met for this method to work:
- You must be exclusively breastfeeding your baby. This means no formula and you must put baby to breast at least every 4 hours during the day and at least every six hours at night.
- Your baby must be under 6 months of age.
- You must not have resumed your menstrual cycle yet.
If any of these conditions change (return of period, formula feeding) or your baby is older than 6 months, you can assume that LAM is no longer a reasonable or effective method of birth control for you.
But there’s a catch…
The problem with LAM is, other studies suggest many women don’t know enough, if anything, about LAM to rely on it as an effective form of contraception.
When Do You Get Your Period After Giving Birth?
Some women get their period as soon as eight weeks after birth, while others may not get their period for a year or longer.
It’s difficult to know when the body is gearing up for the return of its menstrual cycle, and a woman may ovulate before the obvious return of her period. Because of this, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding even if you haven’t had your period yet.
To learn more about your period after pregnancy, check out this post.
Signs You’re Ovulating Even If You Don’t Have Your Period Back
- For most women, menstrual blood will be the first indicator their fertility is creeping back, followed by ovulation.
- For others, ovulation will occur before the the tell-tale sign of bleeding.
When the latter happens, women who aren’t using any other method of birth control may conceive before they even know they’re fertile.
Here are a few clues to help you tune into signs of ovulation:
Click here for more signs of ovulation
Note: When your period does come back while you are breastfeeding, it might not look or feel the same way it did before you were pregnant.
It may be:
- lighter or heavier
- more brown, pink or yellow-hued
- longer or shorter
- different in regularity (it may come every 28 days or randomly)
Over time your menstrual cycle should return to your normal pattern, but in the meantime, you may still be fertile.
If You’re Not Ready for Another Baby…
If you’re asking can you get pregnant while breastfeeding because you or your partner aren’t ready for another baby, think about what form of birth control is right for you. Here’s an article about natural birth control options for you to consider.
If You Want to Try for No. 2
On the other hand, if you’re asking can you get pregnant while breastfeeding because you want to conceive again, be sure to give your body time to fully recover from childbirth.
Experts suggest waiting at least 1 year, preferably 2 before trying again.
If you’re ready for number two, you can take the following steps:
- Increase baby’s solid intake. Try increasing baby’s solids intake if he or she is enjoying food and older than 6 to 8 months. This will decrease the demand for milk, which affects hormone output and puts you one step closer to fertility.
- Encourage baby to sleep through the night. It also helps to have a child who is sleeping all night, as you will need to rest when pregnant.
- Optimize your diet and lifestyle for fertility. You can also follow some of the lifestyle and diet recommendations in this post to balance hormones and boost your fertility.
- Start taking prenatal vitamins (if you aren’t already). Your body has spent a long time nourishing another life. Start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as possible to ensure you have enough folate and other nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.
- Prepare for a higher likelihood of having twins. Women who become pregnant while breastfeeding another child are far more likely to have twins.