If you are trying to get pregnant while breastfeeding your next baby, you will find it’s a bit more challenging. Most women who are exclusively breastfeeding will have almost 100% protection against pregnancy. Once you are past the 6 month mark, the chances of conception occurring rises.
Breastfeeding and ConceptionLet’s take a good look at breastfeeding and conception.The reassuring truth is that it is possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. Ask any doctor and they will tell you if you don’t want to get pregnant to certainly use birth control. Even with women who exclusively breastfeed past the 6 month mark, pregnancy can occur. The fertility will start to come back (albeit slowly) when you start to supplement the feedings with formula, juice or food. Until you supplement or introduce foods, there is only a 1-2% chance for pregnancy to happen.
Your Monthly Cycle
Breastfeeding, in addition to the wonderful value it gives to both you and your baby, is meant to provide you with “natural” spacing of your children. Exclusive breastfeeding allows the body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. When the monthly cycle returns it shows that fertility has been restored and conception can once again take place. Of course you can conceive even before the monthly cycle returns – because obviously ovulation occurs some 2 weeks prior to the monthly bleeding.
The return of the menstrual cycle can vary with different women. Some will have their cycles right away. Others may be back within 7 or 8 months or others may not see their cycles until they’ve completely weaned their baby. My cycles came back around the 8 month mark with my five babies.
The Role of HormonesProlactin is the hormone produced during breastfeeding. This is the hormone that suppresses ovulation. Even when your cycle returns, there may still be high levels of prolactin which will prevent conception from occurring. This is what makes breastfeeding while trying to conceive so difficult at times.
Once your hormones level out conception is more possible. You find out this through charting your fertility signs. That way you can pinpoint whether or not you are indeed ovulating and how long your luteal phase (the time from ovulation to menstruation) is. This can be difficult with nighttime feedings, but it is possible to get a glimpse at what’s going on with your cycle.
My experience with breastfeeding is that it takes my cycles a while to balance once they are back. Normally you may see your luteal phase under 10 days. This is too short and unable to sustain a pregnancy. I watched my charts – and as I took supplements that help to regulate the reproductive hormones like vitamin B6 (which is also safe for the baby). My luteal phase would start at around 7 days. Within another 6 months or so it would increase to over 14 days.
You May Have To Make a DecisionSuccess rates with breastfeeding while trying to conceive will vary from woman to woman. Some will have no problems conceiving. Others may take a while. Others still may find they have to completely wean before conception will occur. At that point you have to ask yourself what is more important at the moment – that you breastfeed your child or that you conceive your next baby.
This "Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding" article was contributed by Lori Ramsey, author of "Mom's Lifestyle Guide to Pregnancy & The Journey to Motherhood." You can find her work exclusively at Amazon.com.
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- Preparing a Toddler for a New Baby–Some tips for preparing your toddler for the arrival of a new baby.