How Breastfeeding Affects Fertility And Fertility Treatments
Meredith Shur, MD, FACOG, is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as a certified medical examiner.
While you can get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, but moms who breastfeed exclusively tend to experience a delay in the return of their fertility . Women who are done having children or who want to have more children in the future, but don’t feel pressure about timing don’t usually find this to be much of an issue. After all, the delay in the return of fertility can help with family planning and child spacing.
But, for women who fear that they don’t have the time to wait, or for women who have struggled with infertility in the past, the waiting may be more of a concern. Here’s what you need to know about getting pregnant again while you’re breastfeeding.
How To Recognize The Signs Of Pregnancy While Breastfeeding
Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently studying lab sciences. She enjoys researching various health topics and writing about her findings.
REVIEWED BY, MD, FACOG, FACS, FACE, Director, Fertility CARE: The IVF Center
There are quite a few signs that could point to pregnancy if you are breastfeeding, but there are only three ways to positively know if you are pregnant.
Can You Get Pregnant Without Having A Period
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about womens health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.
Brian Levine, MD, MS, is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology as well as in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Can you get pregnant without having a period in months? Yes, its possible, but its not likely. If youre not getting your periods, this is a good reason to see your gynecologist. There are some normaland some not-so-normalreasons this can occur. What could cause you not to get your periods? Could you be pregnant and not know it?
What do your periods have to do with getting pregnant? And, if you want to get pregnant, how can your doctor help you conceive if youre not menstruating?
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What You Need To Know From An Obstetrician And Gynaecologist
Written by Dr Brooke Vandermolen. Obstetrics & Gynaecology doctor, medical writer & blogger www.theobgynmum.com
Its a big step when you decide its time to try to conceive again, and your cycles may have changed since you conceived the first time! There are so many factors that can play into that decision as to whether youre ready.
Once you know that it is time to expand your family, it can be frustrating if things dont happen immediately! Here are some tips you may need to know about your body after pregnancy, and trying to conceive your next child.
Pregnancy Signs While Breastfeeding Are Usually The Same As Typical Early Pregnancy Symptoms
I know this is kind of boring to hear, but most of the usual symptoms we normally experience when pregnant occur when we are breastfeeding and pregnant too.
One notable difference is the absence or presence of a period as a pregnancy sign.
Since it is possible to get pregnant before your period returns while breastfeeding you cannot count on this as a sign.
Our cycles can be off or much different than we are used to when nursing as well. When my first baby was about one years old I decided I wanted to try and get pregnant again. It wasn’t as easy to predict ovulation as the first time around though.
My period had returned when she was around 9 months old but it had yet to regulate. One month my cycle would be really short and the next it would be long. I really thought I would not be able to get pregnant again until things normalized but I did.
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How To Improve Fertility While Breastfeeding
If you would like to improve your chances of becoming pregnant while breastfeeding, there are a couple of things you can do.
First, limit the number of times you nurse throughout the day, and focus on using a breast pump. This will help decrease the amount of prolactin in your system while still producing breast milk.
A slow transition will be easier for your baby, but a more dramatic change in your nursing schedule will help you reach full fertility more quickly.
Second, it can be important to rule out a luteal phase defect. The luteal phase takes place after ovulation and is the time of your menstrual cycle when the lining of your uterus becomes thicker and prepares to implant a fertilized egg.
Because progesterone levels are often low when breastfeeding, the luteal phase can be shortened. This means there is often not enough time for the fertilized egg to safely implant itself in your womb before menstruation occurs.
Finally, relax and give yourself some time! Stress often disrupts fertility . Unless you are facing other medical issues, your menstrual cycle will return to normal with time.
About Dr Roohi Jeelani
Dr Roohi Jeelani is Director of Research and Education at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Dr Jeelani earned her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth, Dominica. She then completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, where she was awarded a Womens Reproductive Health NIH K12 Research Grant. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
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Regaining Fertility While Breastfeeding
So what happens if you want to become pregnant and you are still breastfeeding? There are both natural ways to boost fertility, along with ways your doctor can help.
For most women, periods resume between 618 months after giving birth. Once your periods resume, your body is capable of getting pregnant. Evidence suggests that the increased prolactin levels in women that are breastfeeding prevent them from ovulating and having periods . Once an infant starts sleeping through the night, or the mother goes back to work and is separated from the infant during the day, the feeding frequency and duration drops, which in turn makes the prolactin levels drop. This can cause ovulation to resume.
Fertility treatments while breastfeeding is not advisable as the hormones can accumulate in breastmilk and have potentially negative effects on the baby.
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.
Its 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 havent had your period yet.
To learn more about your period after pregnancy, check out this post.
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How Soon Can You Get Pregnant After Giving Birth While Breastfeeding
If youre not breastfeeding, you can get pregnant again as soon as three weeks after giving birth. However, a review of studies in 2011 found that most women did not ovulate until six weeks after giving birth, this is different if you choose to breastfeed. If you are exclusively breastfeeding this can work as a method of birth control for up to six months after giving birth.
Unfortunately, its difficult to know when that first ovulation is going to arrive – you might not know its happened until you get your first period after pregnancy, by which point youve already been fertile. There are a couple of options available to help you detect ovulation. LH tests can detect a surge in hormones before ovulation, while taking your basal body temperature can confirm ovulation has happened.
How Can I Avoid Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding reduces your chances of becoming pregnant only if you are exclusively breastfeeding. And this method is only reliable for six months after the delivery of your baby. For it to work, you must feed your baby at least every four hours during the day, every six hours at night, and offer no supplement.
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How Your Period Affects Breastfeeding
When your period does return, it doesn’t mean you have to wean your baby. Breastfeeding while you have your period is perfectly safe. It’s not harmful to you or your child at all.
Your breast milk is still healthy and nutritious for your baby. However, hormone changes in the days leading up to your period can affect your breast milk and your baby’s breastfeeding pattern for a few days.
You may not notice any difference in breastfeeding when your period returns. And, even if there are some changes, your baby may not mind and continue to breastfeed as usual.
It’s also possible that the return of your period can cause nipple tenderness, a dip in your breast milk supply, and for the taste of your breast milk to change.
For instance, research shows that the composition of breast milk changes around ovulation . The levels of sodium and chloride in the milk go up while lactose and potassium go down. So, the breast milk becomes saltier and less sweet during this time.
Also around the time of ovulation and just before the start of your period, estrogen and progesterone levels change which can affect your breasts and your breast milk. When estrogen and progesterone levels go up, it can make your breasts feel full and tender.
Higher estrogen levels can also interfere with milk production. Studies also show that calcium levels in the blood go down after ovulation. The lower level of calcium may also contribute to sore nipples and a drop in the milk supply.
Is It Possible To Ovulate And Get Pregnant Without Menstruation
Yes, it is very much possible to ovulate and get pregnant without your periods. This is most likely the case with women who face the problem of irregular periods. It is important to understand that ovulation is important for getting pregnant and if you have your periods regularly, then you would be ovulating regularly too. This means you can get pregnant. However, women who have irregular periods need to be evaluated, to find the cause of irregular menstrual cycle like PCOD and hyperprolactinemia which can be treated with ovulation induction by a gynaecologist. So if you are wondering can pregnancy occur without menstruation, the answer is yes.
While the end of your cycle is indicated by the presence of periods, there are no signs to clearly indicate that your ovulation cycle has begun. Its possible to ovulate and not know about it at all. In fact, if youve been pregnant for a while, you wouldnt probably come to know of it immediately, since youve had irregular periods anyway! This is also why you shouldnt really depend upon your lack of regular menstrual cycles as a form of birth control if youre not looking to get pregnant.
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The Relationship Between Breastfeeding And Menstruation
Can you get your period while breastfeeding? Lets discuss this and many other common questions. A common question we hear from expecting and new mothers is how breastfeeding affects menstruation and fertility. While theres no precise answer to when your period will return after having a baby, breastfeeding does have an impact. Missing a period
What Does It Mean If I Have Cramping While Breastfeeding But No Period
Cramping is never anyones best friend. Cramps range from annoying to downright painful. When you have cramping while breastfeeding but no period, it makes you wonder whats wrong.
Are you pregnant? Are you ovulating? What causes cramping while breastfeeding, and most importantly, should you worry if you have cramps?
There are several reasons why you might have cramps during breastfeeding. Its a common occurrence in the postpartum period that not enough people discuss. At times, some cramps can feel as painful as labor pains. Lets look at the reasons why you might have no period while breastfeeding but cramping.
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Tips For Ttc While Breastfeeding
Theoretically, you can get pregnant as soon as you are ovulating again. Thus, restoring fertility while breastfeeding means speeding up the return of ovulation. Some ways you can achieve this are:
- Reducing the frequency of breastfeeding
- Give your baby a pacifier to reduce its need to breastfeed
- Alternate breastfeeding with formula-feeding, or use a breast pump
- If your baby is old enough, start introducing solid foods
- Eat an overall healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight to encourage the return of ovulation
Tracking your hormones postpartum can help you identify exactly when you have started ovulating again, so you will know as soon as you are able to get pregnant again that it is time to start trying. Using a digital fertility tracker like Mira can help make this process easier. Mira charts your unique hormone curve so you can identify the hormonal shifts that indicate ovulation with greater accuracy and precision.
Can Breastfeeding Prevent Pregnancy
Lets say it again: Theres no guarantee that breastfeeding will prevent pregnancy.
Even if sex is the last thing on your mind, your body might be ready to start the whole pregnancy process again as early as three weeks after you give birth.
Your chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding in the early weeks are small, but there is still a chance of conception while breastfeeding that a lot of new mamas would rather not take.
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How Prolactin Affects Fertility
Of all these hormones, prolactin is the one that has the most direct impact on your fertility.
Ovulation occurs when the gonadotropin-releasing hormone signals to another hormone, the follicle-stimulating hormone, to release an egg for fertilization and prepare the womb to house it.
Prolactin suppresses both of these hormones, effectively stopping ovulation, the key step in the menstrual cycle for reproduction. This is why so many women are able to use breastfeeding as a natural form of birth control.
In fact, less than 1 out of 100 exclusively breastfeeding women will become pregnant in the first six months.
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 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.
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