There’s a belief that while a breastfeeding woman can’t get pregnant. But many women have learned that this saying just isn’t true. Although breastfeeding can delay ovulation, you cannot rely on it is a form of birth control unless you’re prepared to get pregnant again.
Every woman is different when it comes to when she starts ovulating again after giving birth. You might start getting your period again anywhere from a month later to over a year after giving birth. The important thing to note is that even if you aren’t getting your period, you might be ovulating.
Breastfeeding as birth control
Some women do intentionally use breastfeeding as a form of birth control. This method is called the lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM. For this method to work, your baby has to be under 6 months of age and must be breastfeeding exclusively and around the clock. Note that you cannot use this method if your menstrual periods have started again.
The method has an approximately 2 percent failure rate if you observe these practices. However, once your baby starts sleeping through the night and nurses less, the chances of your falling pregnant are increased.
How is it possible to get pregnant before your first period after giving birth?
About 12 to 16 days before a period, so before you know you are going to start menstruating again, you will ovulate. This is the time when you are fertile and could fall pregnant again, evening if you are still breastfeeding.
The answer to preventing pregnancy while breastfeeding until you are ready for another child is to use birth control every time you have sex.
How to detect ovulation if you aren’t having periods
If you aren’t having periods yet after the birth of your baby, it is still possible that you are ovulating and could, therefore, get pregnant. Here are a few ways to detect fertility:
You have a temperature spike: If you are monitoring your temperature to prevent pregnancy, take special care if you have a spike in temperature that’s not related to illness. During ovulation, body temperature increases.
You have increased vaginal mucus: Keep an eye on your vaginal discharge for signs of fertility. If your vaginal discharge increases or changes from thick and white, to thin and clear, you are probably ovulating.
Your vaginal discharge is discolored: Even if you don’t have a normal period, in the time running up to the return of your period, you might have discolored discharge. If your discharge is pinkish or has small amounts of brown in it, you might have become fertile once again.
If you don’t want to get pregnant again
If you’re not ready for another baby, consult your OB/GYN to help you to choose the right method of birth control for you and your partner. Unless you’re ready to fall pregnant again, make sure you and your partner use contraception correctly, every time you have sex, or you might be in for a surprise.
If you want to get pregnant while breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, but want to get pregnant again, there are a few things that can increase your chances of fertility. When your milk supply diminishes, fertility is more likely. That means that when your baby is 6 months or older, s/he will be nursing less frequently, and your milk supply will decrease.
This increases chances of falling pregnant. Note that up until the age of 9 months, breastfeeding is considered vital, and it is recommended to delay conception until after the baby has reached that age.
Stress can decrease your milk supply. Even small stressors can affect your milk production, and thus your fertility. Increasing the amount of exercise you take can decrease your milk flow, as can going back to work or starting a new job.
You can decrease nighttime feedings to at least 6 hours, which will decrease your milk supply. This will send your body a signal that it is time to go back to regular processes such as ovulating.
You can also start feeding your baby with solid foods and other liquids as a supplement to breastfeeding. Your milk supply will decrease even more.