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Many families want to have siblings close in age, that way they can enjoy similar things throughout childhood. What happens if you want to breastfeed your baby for the recommended first year? Now you are wondering how to get pregnant while breastfeeding…
Many online sources say that breastfeeding is a natural contraceptive. That its mother nature’s way of spacing out pregnancies so that she has a chance to focus on one baby before the next one arrives. However, you have also heard friends or people in mom-groups get pregnant as shortly as 3 months post-partum despite breastfeeding.
How are they getting pregnant so quickly despite lowered fertility and breastfeeding? Read further to find out…
Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
The short answer is yes. Women are getting pregnant shortly after giving birth, which is where the term ‘Irish twins’ comes from. That describes siblings that are exactly one year apart and mother being pregnant 3 months after giving birth.
In order to get pregnant you have to ovulate, which means that your body releases an egg to be fertilized. When we produce breast milk, our bodies need elevated levels of the hormone prolactin. This is also the hormone that stops ovulation, good milk supply = lower infertility. In order words, as long as your prolactin levels are high, your body will not ovulate.
There are two things you can do to get pregnant:
- Wait 6 months as baby feeds less once solids are introduced.
- Decrease the amount of time your baby breastfeeds.
I will tell you, 6 months goes by very quickly and as a breastfeeding advocate, I would never suggest to a mother she reduce the amount her baby feeds. Waiting also allows your body to heal from the trauma of giving birth / c-section.
Lactational Amenorrhoea Method
Exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months is considered a natural contraceptive which is termed lactational amenorrhoea method, or LAM. Although effective, a mother can still get pregnant before the 6 moths mark if:
- supplements with formula
- baby takes a binkie (results in less nursing)
- sleep trains / baby sleeps through the night at an early age
- mother goes back to work (pumping is not the same)
Considering many mothers in the USA go back to work already 12 weeks post-partum, you can see how her fertility might return quicker, even if she breastfeeds when at home.
What if my period has not returned?
If you ovulate and the egg does not fertilize, your uterine walls will shed its lining which is a women’s period. However, since the period marks the end of a women’s menstrual cycle, she will ovulate before bleeding. If that first egg gets fertilized, you will be pregnant before having that first period post-partum.
You can check if you are ovulating by using test strips. These cheeper ones are best as you will want to test daily until the test line is darker than the control line. That indicates you will ovulate in the next 12-36 hours.
Start testing around 10 days after your first period.
You never know exactly when your period will return post-partum, because breastfeeding hormones have a huge impact on when your fertility will come back.
Most mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding, will get their period back between 9-18 months post-partum. If you are not breastfeeding, you can expect your period to return between 6-8 weeks post-partum. Keep in mind, that if your period comes back very soon, its common to have a few anovalutary cycles. That means your body goes through the whole menstrual cycle but does not ovulate.
To recap, you can’t get pregnant without a period, however, you and your partner might fertilize that first egg post-partum and therefore never menstruate before being pregnant again
How soon can I get pregnant after giving birth?
In the United States, OBGYN’s tell mothers to refrain from having sex for 6 weeks after giving birth. This is a bit of an arbitrary number because some women need way longer than 6 weeks before they are ready for intercourse. Other mothers are ready before that mark.
According to the nhs, women can get pregnant as soon as 3 weeks after giving birth. For anyone who has had to recover from child birth, whether vaginal or c-section knows that our bodies are still overwhelmed 3 weeks postpartum. It is very soon.
For you that wants to get pregnant fast though, it can be music to your ears. This means that you can actually try for the next baby as soon as you feel ready because fertility comes back relatively quickly. That is if you are not exclusively breastfeeding.
If you are home with your baby for the first 6 months and feeding on demand morning and night, your chances of conception during that time are much lower. This doesn’t mean you can’t start trying to conceive before the 6-month mark. The guidelines document what happens to majority of women. Depending on your body, your timeline will vary.
If you want to increase your chances of conception before your current baby is 6 months old, you will need to reduce feedings at the breast. You can pump for your partner to feed in the mornings and evening when home or choose to supplement with formula a few times a day.
I like getting these digital pregnancy tests because it takes the guess work out of knowing if you are pregnant. The test strips might show a very faint line which can be confusing.
Can I undergo fertility treatments while breastfeeding?
There are a few medications that are deemed safe while breastfeeding, one of which is Clomid. This medication is given to women in order to help their body hormonally produce an egg and ovulate. A general practitioner can prescribe clomid to their patients and its often the first step before seeking help by an infertility specialist.
Also, treatments such as IUI where sperm is injected into a women or IVF when a frozen embryo transfer occurs can be safe within themselves. Considering how expensive fertility treatments are in the USA though, taking certain medications in combination with treatment can help increase chances of conception.
Unfortunately this is till a very unresearched area, so each women will need to have this discussion with their fertility doctor. Having gone through infertility treatments myself, I know there are many combinations of medication that a doctor might prescribe, so breastfeeding a young baby can make the situation more complicated.
3 questions to ask yourself
If you want to get pregnant again shortly after breastfeeding, there are 3 questions to ask yourself:
- Are you willing to wait 6 months in order to have your body naturally regain fertility while breastfeeding? Make sure your body feels ready to carry out another pregnancy as its important to take care of yourself too!
- Are you willing to reduce feedings at the breast to jump start fertility? This means combining either pumping or formula feeding into your babies feeding routine.
- Are you going to tandem feed? If you are exclusively breastfeeding and get pregnant quickly, it is possible that your first baby is still nursing when you have your next.
If you are wondering how to get pregnant while breastfeeding, you now have the tools to complemennt your family planning journey.
How quickly did you get pregnant again after having a baby?
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