If you are already a mom that is breastfeeding a baby or toddler and are wanting to conceive again, you may have questions about the process – even though you just recently went through a pregnancy and childbirth. The fact is that even though you may have breastfeeding birth control protection, it is not 100%.
So, with that in mind and with the desire to conceive again, let’s look at the facts about breastfeeding and conception.
It is possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding, though the chances are slim – especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding. If you talk to any doctor they will tell you to definitely use a method of birth control if you do not want to get pregnant while breastfeeding. They say this because conception has happened even when exclusively breastfeeding. But for most women – exclusive breastfeeding does offer an almost 100% birth control. The chances for conception rises if you supplement the feedings with formula or juice.
The fact is that breastfeeding gives you a chance to have “natural” spacing of your children. With exclusive breastfeeding for the first couple of months, you allow your body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. It’s when the menstrual cycle returns that you can become pregnant again – and of course, possibly right before because ovulation can occur before you see your first menstrual bleeding. This happens at different times with each woman. It can come back right away – or it can be suppressed the entire time you are breastfeeding. With me, my cycles came back and 7 and 8 months after giving birth. However, I did not conceive until I had weaned my baby completely. With this in mind, there is only a 1-2% chance of pregnancy occurring until you begin to supplement baby’s feedings with food and/or liquids.
The hormone prolactin is produced during breastfeeding. This hormone suppresses ovulation. Even when your menstrual cycle returns, you may have high levels of prolactin, which will prevent conception from occurring. One way of finding out if you are indeed fertile is to chart your cycle. This can be difficult while breastfeeding because of the nightly feedings. However, if at all possible, this can indicate if your hormones have leveled out. When I was breastfeeding and trying to conceive – my cycles were long and my luteal phase (the time from ovulation to menstruation) was short – under 10 days. This can not sustain a pregnancy. I knew that my luteal phase defect was caused by the breastfeeding, and as I began to wean my daughter I noticed that my luteal phase went from 9 to 11 days.
This is not the case with every woman. I have a friend who became pregnant while she was nursing 3 of her children. It can happen, just be aware that “possibly” you may have problems conceiving even if you do have your menstrual cycle. If you truly want another baby and it hasn’t happened, you may want to consider weaning your current baby momhood moments.