Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding? Chances and Methods of Contraception

Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding? This question is very popular among women who are planning to give birth, as well as among those who are already breastfeeding.

The majority of young mothers are sure that breastfeeding reliably protects them from unwanted pregnancies, so they don’t need additional means of protection. Is it really so?

Why does Breastfeeding Interfere with the Beginning of Pregnancy?

The method of natural contraception is called Lactational Amenorrhea. The main point of this method is that breastfeeding is an obstacle to a new pregnancy. However, in some cases, the conception of a child is still possible.

After giving birth, the reproductive function of a woman doesn’t restore immediately. For nursing mothers, this period, as a rule, is much longer than for those who practice mixed or fully artificial feeding. Sometimes the recovery process continues until the end of lactation. All this time a woman may not have menstruation, but, nevertheless, conception is still possible.

This fact is confirmed by medical practice and numerous stories told by a lot of women on the forums on the Internet. Therefore, the only answer to the question of whether it is possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding is “yes, it is possible”. The thing is that a woman may simply not notice the beginning of the first after-birth ovulation. Conception may occur right at this time. In this case, the probability of pregnancy is approximately 10%.

When does the Method of Lactational Amenorrhea Work?


Of course, the probability of pregnancy is not too high. During lactation, fertility, which is the woman’s ability to conceive, is seriously reduced. During the lactation period, the organism of the nursing mother intensively produces hormones that suppress fertility. These hormones include prolactin. A high concentration of prolactin prevents a woman from getting pregnant while breastfeeding. Under certain important conditions, the reliability of the “lactational amenorrhea” method increases to 98-99%.

These Conditions Include the Following:

  • The woman puts the baby to her breast on the baby’s demand, at least 8 times a day. The biggest break for a night’s sleep does not exceed 5 hours.
  • Parents don’t give the child any complementary feeding. Parents don’t use a pacifier to calm the child down.
  • After 3 months of lactation, the menstrual cycle is still not recovered.
  • The child is not older than six to seven months. If the child is older, then the frequency of feeding does not play a special role. After six months parents begin to add supplementary feeding to the child’s diet. The child doesn’t need mother’s milk as much as before. During this period, the question “Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?” is irrelevant. It is smarter to start using contraceptives.

When a woman has menstruation again, it means that her body is ready for a new pregnancy. If a woman does not want another child, then she needs to think about additional contraceptives.

In some cases, ovulation can occur when the menstrual period is not yet back. Therefore, you can use additional contraceptives approved for breastfeeding in 3 months after the birth of the child.

In practice, a very large number of mothers with kids born a year apart shows that the method of lactational amenorrhea is not that reliable. So, if you are not planning another baby in the nearest future, then it is worthwhile to apply some additional methods of protection.

When doesn’t it Work?

Urbanization of life entails its own characteristics.  So, the above rules may not always be respected. There can be various kinds of violations in the rhythm and life of a woman. For example, it can be regulated feeding of a baby less than 6 times a day, or something else. This can lead to spontaneous ovulation. Then a woman can easily get pregnant while breastfeeding. When supplementary feeding is introduced, and the baby does not receive the full volume of breast milk, the risk of getting pregnant is even higher. Also, the lactational amenorrhea method may not work if there are any abnormalities in the functioning of organs that can affect the reproductive panel. If there is a lack of milk, it means there isn’t enough prolactin hormone in the system. That means that ovulation is not suppressed and pregnancy may also occur.


Contraception for a Nursing Mother

  • Barrier contraception or, more simply, condoms and vaginal diaphragm. As for condoms, their effectiveness as a contraceptive is quite high. It is only necessary to choose their type correctly and, if necessary, use a special lubricant. Many women after childbirth often complain about the excessive dryness of the vagina and unpleasant sensations during intimate contact. A lubricant can help to cope with this problem.
  • A contraceptive diaphragm is a dome-shaped cup with a flexible rim that closes the uterine cervix and thus prevents penetration of the sperm into the uterus. The effectiveness of the vaginal diaphragm, with proper use, is almost 90%. Its advantages include simplicity, convenience, and the possibility of repeated use.
  • Spermicides. Women are familiar with creams, tablets, and suppositories for intravaginal use. The principle of their action is associated with the creation of a special environment in the vagina that suppresses the vital activity of sperm. The effectiveness of spermicide contraceptives is more than 80% which is quite enough for women whose fertility has not yet fully recovered from childbirth. The active ingredients of spermicides do not enter the breast milk which means that they do not harm the baby.
  • Intrauterine device. It is an excellent contraceptive for those women who don’t have contraindications to it. A spiral can be inserted soon after giving birth (in six-eight weeks). The cervix is still slightly open during this period, so the doctor can easily insert a spiral without injuring the uterus with medical instruments. The spiral operates for a very long time – from five to seven years. If there is a need, a woman can ask a doctor to remove it at any time. The reliability of the spiral as a contraceptive is almost one hundred percent.

Oral Contraceptives

  • Undoubtedly, there is no more effective method of protection than oral contraceptives at the moment. Since we have already found out that it is possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding, it becomes clear that precautions will not interfere. Modern contraceptive pills that do not contain ethinylestradiol are called mini-pills. They can be taken two months after giving birth. Mini-pills have no effect on the amount of mother’s milk, and their negative impact on the child’s organism has not been revealed. But, in any case, you can not prescribe pills to yourself. You need to visit a doctor who will choose the right drug for you.
  • After the child turns six months old, you can move on to the more conventional oral contraceptives. These medicines contain ethinylestradiol and guarantee a high degree of protection from pregnancy. They only slightly reduce the amount of milk. The latter circumstance is not so important because after six months the baby begins to receive supplementary feeding.

As you can see, the number of contraceptives that a nursing woman can use is large enough. It is not difficult to choose the one that suits you the most. It is important to remember that the probability of getting pregnant while breastfeeding is small, but it still exists. So it’s better not to rely on natural contraception.

Can you get Pregnant while Breastfeeding? What are the Guarantees?

It is important to remember that no contraceptive gives a 100% guarantee. The principle of lactational amenorrhea is also not perfect. The older the child is, the higher the risk of getting pregnant while breastfeeding. The greatest protection this method gives is in the first 3 months after childbirth.

But in order to completely protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy, it is better to use additional methods of contraception: barrier methods, intrauterine contraceptives, or progestin-containing drugs that do not entail any consequences for the lactation and health of the baby. Drugs must be prescribed individually by an obstetrician-gynecologist.