A missed period is one of the telltale signs of pregnancy. But when a woman is breastfeeding, her fertility and ovulation are halted. Breastfeeding can temporarily prevent ovulation, and she will go for months without her period. It makes pregnancy hard to detect until she is a month or two along with it. If you are breastfeeding and show symptoms like nausea, fatigue, or sore breasts without your period, it will be better to run a test to be sure.
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Birth control and breastfeeding
Generally, women will not ovulate until six weeks after delivery. Exclusive breastfeeding will delay this ovulation further for up to six months.
However, the time frame is subjective as it can vary from woman to woman taking into account the varying hormonal changes and respective lifestyles.
According to experts, lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), or exclusive breastfeeding after giving birth, is an accurate birth control method.
It works since the pressure on the nipple sends out a signal to the mother’s body to produce hormones that prevent egg cell production. As a result, no ovulation means you are not fertile and reduces the chances of getting pregnant.
Accordingly, LAM is one of the best natural birth control methods when used properly. Here’s how:
- No formula or breastmilk substitute
- Breastfeeding every 4 to 6 hours
- Follow a rigid feeding schedule
- Your baby is still younger than six months old
Detecting pregnancy while breastfeeding
LAM is only effective if followed accordingly since it delays ovulation, and you are not likely to get your period for a time.
Yet, not getting your period does not always mean you are protected. Remember that ovulation happens before menstruation. So you may miss your period either because you are not yet ovulating or because you are pregnant again.
Technically speaking, it is possible to get pregnant even if your period has not yet returned.
The common pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding is:
- Sore breasts and tender nipples
- Morning sickness
- Excessive thirst and hunger
- Reduced breastmilk production
Post-pregnancy birth control
The whole ordeal of your previous pregnancy and now caring for your newborn is challenging enough.
Your body will also need time to recuperate from childbirth. Thus, simultaneous pregnancy can sound too exhaustive to parents. But for as long as you rely exclusively on breastfeeding, LAM may prevent the pregnancy until about six months after birth.
If you want to prevent pregnancy after giving birth, you may use other contraception methods aside from LAM. There are hormonal, non-hormonal, and natural cycles that your doctor may recommend. But the natural cycles are applicable only after getting back to your post-partum period.
You can check with your doctor about the ideal contraception that will work out best for you. Generally, doctors will not recommend hormonal birth control for the first three weeks after giving birth.
It means contraception that contains the hormone estrogen. Hormonal contraceptives may cause a reduction in the milk supply.
Thus, you’ll need to wait until your breastmilk supply is stabilized before using them.
Will pumping count as exclusive breastfeeding?
Pumping breastmilk for exclusive feeding to your baby is beneficial for his growth and development. But it is a different notion from LAM.
LAM needs the baby’s stimulation of the nipple to send a message for the body to suspend the ovulation temporarily. So, no, pumping will not count in pregnancy prevention – frequent latching does.
Are pregnancy tests not reliable when breastfeeding?
The pregnancy test measures the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormones in the mother’s blood or urine. This hormone is not related and is not affected by breastfeeding.
PT tests are still reliable tests for confirming pregnancy even when breastfeeding.
Why am I getting worse pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding?
Most women admit that the pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding can get worse. Owe it to the post-partum hormonal changes and the changes that your body undergoes in preparation for the new baby.
Your body will also need all the nourishment to fend for the baby and yourself simultaneously. That is why you can experience extreme thirst and hunger.
LAM is an effective natural birth control method if followed accordingly through exclusive breastfeeding. It can prevent pregnancy until six months after the child’s birth. But women who want to use LAM should consider if it is the best fit for their lifestyles.
When the breastfeeding frequency decreases, she may need to use a backup method for preventing pregnancy.