If you faced challenges while trying to get your last baby, it might be more challenging if you’re attempting another pregnancy, especially if you’re still breastfeeding. Maybe you didn’t struggle to have your past baby, but you should bear in mind that getting pregnant while breastfeeding might not be as easy as you imagined.
The truth is, when you’re breastfeeding, you’re producing hormones that can suppress ovulation. While exclusive breastfeeding can serve as a form of birth control, this might not be the case in all women. Some are not able to ovulate even when they do not practice exclusive breastfeeding. Consequently, it might be a big challenge for them to get pregnant while breastfeeding.
Given the changes that occur to your body during pregnancy and after delivery, it is logical to allow time for your body to recover. If you’re still breastfeeding and contemplating another pregnancy, it would help to wait until your baby is at least one year old before embarking on a pregnancy journey.
Two case scenarios: (1) Your cycles are back and (2) You haven’t had a period since delivery. In the first case, some women get their period approximately three months after delivery. This is usually the case in women who practice mixed feeding. Although you may have periods while breastfeeding, these are probably not yet regular and maybe anovulatory. This would therefore make it difficult for you to determine your fertile periods. In the second case, if you’re not getting your periods at all, your body hasn’t become fertile yet, especially if you’re breastfeeding exclusively. You will gradually become fertile if you start breastfeeding your baby less often, say about two to four times per day.
What Happens to Your Body When You’re Breastfeeding?
One of the hormones that stimulates milk production, prolactin, also inhibits the release of hormones that cause follicles to mature in your ovaries. In the absence of follicle maturation, no mature egg would be released from your ovary. Thus, even with frequent intercourse, your chances of getting pregnant would be decreased. Further, the levels of progesterone in breastfeeding mothers tend to be low, implying that even if you did get pregnant, the odds of sustaining a pregnancy are low.
Progesterone, also called pregnancy hormone, is produced by maturing follicles. Since prolactin suppresses estrogen, which causes the maturation of ovarian follicles, progesterone production is consequently decreased. At low levels, progesterone cannot cause the growth of the uterine lining to favor the implantation of a fertilized egg or ovum. In addition, the third phase of the cycle (luteal phase) is shorter than normal (< 10 days) and the embryo does not have enough time to implant into the uterine wall before the next expected menstruation.
What Should You Do to Conceive While Nursing?
I could say relax, but you won’t, will you? In fact, with a few changes, you could achieve your aim of getting pregnant while nursing your baby. Here are a few things you could do.
- Decrease the frequency of breastfeeding. In general, most babies prefer solid food by the age of 12 months, after they’ve tasted several food types. By this age, a baby can already drink from a cup. So, your baby might not need breast milk as many as 10 to 12 times per day if you introduce them to solid food by this age. As you breastfeed your baby less frequently, your body will slowly become fertile again.
- Track your cycles. Yes, you need to know what’s going on within your body so that you can take the right steps to prepare for your pregnancy. You need a sensitive thermometer to track your basal body temperature. A shift in your temperature (about 0.2 to 0.4 degrees higher) that persists for three days or more would indicate that you ovulated. After two or more cycles, you may be able to determine your fertile window and have intercourse frequently (every day, if possible!). You also need to track your cervical mucus, position and texture. During your fertile period, your cervical mucus would be clear and slimy like egg white. Your cervix would be open and feel soft during ovulation. You may also experience mild abdominal cramping, which is typically localized to the side where the egg has been released.
- Ovulation predictor kits and fertility monitors might help you, but they are not a must. You can cut down on cost by buying cheap ovulation tests (such as Wondfo) and start testing based on the length of your cycles minus 17. Thus, a woman who has a 28-day cycle should start testing on day 11. Some women prefer to switch to a more expensive ovulation test brand once a cheaper one shows a faint positive. But I believe even the cheaper brands can do the trick. Always remember to read the instruction manual of the manufacturer so that you perform the test at the recommended time of the day and do not miss your ovulation surge.
- Watch out for any signs and symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea/vomiting, tiredness, cramping, etc. I could list them all, but that won’t be necessary since you’ve been pregnant at least once.
- Eat healthy. Avoid refined sugar and processed food and eat lots of vegetables, protein-rich foods, and fruits. Some women believe fertility tea blends and cranberry juice helped improve their fertility. You can also try supplements or fertility herbs. A fertility supplement known as monk’s herb (marketed as Vitex®) can help normalize your cycles and increase the length of the luteal phase. It might also help to start taking prenatal vitamins so that you and your baby get all the nutrients that you need when you subsequently get pregnant.
- If there are no signs that you’re ovulating, you may choose to wait for a few more months—you will eventually ovulate. Continue trying the points above. If these fail to help, acupuncture might help. But, the rule is to always talk to your doctor for the best possible advice.
Are you a breastfeeding mom? Are you planning to have another baby anytime soon? If yes, what are your main concerns about getting pregnant while breastfeeding?
About The Author
Princila is a self-proclaimed “science geek” and proud mom of two adorable kids. She works in the medical publishing industry and devotes much of her time to writing and creating helpful resources (newsletters, articles, abstracts, etc.) for physicians. She also writes about issues related to reproduction and pregnancy at Checkovulation.com and wants her website to be a judgment-free, fun place for women looking for practical tips and resources on fertility. You can follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your doctor or pharmacist. The information is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be interpreted to indicate that the use of any drug is safe, appropriate or effective for you or anyone else. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any drug, making modifications to your diet or starting a treatment.
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