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Will I Have A Hard Time Getting Pregnant If I Am Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding – Is It a Barrier to Getting Pregnant?

Breastfeeding can be a great obstacle in getting pregnant during the first six months after a baby is born. After birth, when you are breastfeeding, the hormone that your body makes to stimulate milk production, called prolactin, also acts to prevent release of eggs from your ovaries. This causes no menstruation and hence no ovulation.

But keep in mind that every woman’s body is different and hormone levels vary a great deal from one woman to the other. For a few women the ovaries continue to release eggs despite prolactin production during lactation. So breastfeeding does not always mean that you can’t get pregnant.

The World Health Organization and other groups of scientists have conducted and reviewed studies to determine if breastfeeding can effectively prevent pregnancy. Scientists have concluded that 98 percent of the times breastfeeding was a barrier to conception, if these three criteria were met:

  • You must be fully or nearly fully breastfeeding. This means you breastfeed in the night as well, avoid formula supplements, and have regular and small intervals between feeding times.
  • You have not resumed your menstrual periods. Any kind of vaginal bleeding after the 56th postpartum day is a warning that fertility has returned.
  • Your infant must be younger than six months.

Any disruption in feeding like returning to work, introducing other food or drink to the baby’s diet, or having the baby sleep through the night, greatly improves your chances of getting pregnant. Even if you continue to nurse your baby beyond six months, your chances of getting pregnant are significantly increased even if your menstruation hasn’t resumed.

Improve Your Chances of Getting Pregnant When Breastfeeding

Also, there are several things you can do to encourage the return of fertility:

  • Space out the amount of time in between feeds when breastfeeding.
  • Reduce or eliminate nighttime feeds, allowing at least one six-hour period without breastfeeding.
  • Decrease the length of breastfeeding sessions.
  • Include solid foods as part of your baby’s diet, up to approximately 25 percent.

Decreasing the total amount of time that you spend at breastfeeding will help you greatly in the return of your menstrual period. This in turn hints the return of fertility and possibly getting pregnant. But there are a few statistics to show that some breastfeeding mothers might still find it difficult to become pregnant as long as they breastfeed.

Keep in mind that during a baby’s first year of life, breast milk should still be the priority. If you do decide to make any changes at this time, be sure to do it gradually so as not to adversely affect your baby’s health. Before one year of age a baby that is weaned from the breast will need to be offered supplement (formula) for any missed feeds.

Once your period resumes, begin monitoring your cervical mucus and basal body temperature. You should also have sexual intercourse everyday or every other day during the time of your most fertile period of ovulation. In all probability you will soon be happily pregnant again.

Last modified: February 10, 2013

The information provided here should not be considered medical advice. It is based on the average experience of women trying to conceive and may not be what you may be experiencing. It's not meant to be a replacement for any advice you may receive from your doctor. If you have any concerns about your cycle or our ability to get pregnant, we advise you to contact your doctor.