Skip to main content

Can you get pregnant while you’re exclusively breastfeeding? Be very careful

Birth control isn’t always the very first thing a new mom thinks about, especially as her body is recovering from labor and her focus is on obsessing over her new bundle of joy. Many women find themselves wondering if they can get pregnant while exclusively breastfeeding, or if they need to be practicing another form of birth control just in case.

There tends to be a lot of conflicting information regarding the effectiveness of exclusively breastfeeding when it comes to birth control, so many women err on the safe side and use alternate means of contraception, which may be the best way to ensure they aren’t getting pregnant again before they’re ready. So, can you get pregnant while breastfeeding? Although exclusively breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy, you should definitely be careful and know the facts.

pregnant-while-breastfeeding1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding even with no period?

Although exclusively breastfeeding is a pretty effective form of birth control, it is possible that you could still become pregnant during that time. According to Healthline, using breastfeeding as a form of birth control is called the lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM. The Alberta Department of Health notes that this method is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy (basically the same as using the birth control pill) as long as certain criteria are followed. The mother must be exclusively, or almost exclusively breastfeeding, the woman should have no period whatsoever (not even spotting), and this method is only effective up until the baby is six months old. If all three of these criteria are not met there is an increased chance of getting pregnant if you’re not practicing any other form of birth control.

Breastfeeding exclusively helps prevent the body from ovulating, but that doesn’t mean it works 100% of the time. And since you can ovulate before you get your first post-pregnancy period, there is a chance that you could begin to ovulate without realizing it, increasing your chances of conceiving.

How soon after giving birth can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?

Your body can technically get pregnant after childbirth as soon as you begin to ovulate. While every woman is different, ovulation tends to begin between 45 and 94 days after giving birth, according to Medical News Today. And that means that if you’re not practicing any form of birth control, including LAM, you could become pregnant. NHS writes that a postpartum woman can technically get pregnant as soon as three weeks after delivery. Although that’s unlikely if you’re practicing LAM, there is still a chance of pregnancy if you’re non-exclusively breastfeeding even if you didn’t realize that you had begun to ovulate.

pregnant-while-breastfeeding2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When is LAM not as effective?

For LAM to truly be effective as a method of birth control, the mother must exclusively breastfeed her baby every 4 to 6 hours, as the frequent suckling prevents the mother from ovulating by reducing the hormones that cause ovulation. Supplementing with formula or even water can reduce the effectiveness of this method, as can using a soother. The method is only recommended until the baby turns 6 months old because at that time, solids are typically introduced, which can contribute to a woman’s body beginning to ovulate. The woman must have no period during this time, including spotting. If the period returns, LAM is no longer as effective as it was before.

Birth control options if you’re breastfeeding

In addition to LAM, there are many other safe birth control options for a woman who is still breastfeeding. Women have the option of using the Depo-Provera shot, a contraceptive implant, an IUD (although your doctor may wish for you to wait a certain amount of time post-partum before insertion), and condoms. The mini-pill, which is a birth control pill that contains only the hormone progestin is also an option. Traditional birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin, but many feel that estrogen can have a negative impact on a woman’s milk supply so if you’re breastfeeding the mini-pill is a better option. Again, as with other birth control pills, these do take a few weeks before becoming effective so it’s important to speak to your doctor about which method of birth control is right for you.

So, while exclusively breastfeeding does act as a very effective method of birth control if practiced correctly, there is a slim margin of possibility that you can still get pregnant, especially as your baby gets a bit older. If you are looking to prevent pregnancy it’s always best to speak to your doctor about what contraceptive method is right for you before you leave the hospital or even before your baby is due. Although it is recommended that new mothers abstain until six weeks post-partum, that doesn’t always happen so it’s best to ensure you are fully protected to avoid any surprises!

Editors' Recommendations

Kelli Catana
Contributor
Kelli is a freelance writer who has covered the world of entertainment, pop culture, parenting, and lifestyle for various…
Diastasis recti: What it is, how you get it, and how to get rid of it
Get the facts about diastasis recti
Post partum belly

A woman's body undergoes a lot of changes during a pregnancy. While some women's bodies seem to snap back following the birth of their baby, others have a more difficult road. If you've been struggling with a pooch belly for months following the birth of your little one despite diet and exercise, you could be dealing with diastasis recti.

Most women probably have never heard of diastasis recti or know what it means, but two-thirds of pregnant women will be diagnosed with it. Pregnant women are far more likely to experience diastasis recti but aren't the only ones who can end up with the diagnosis. Post-menopausal women and even men can experience it as well. So, let's take a look at what diastasis recti is and what to do if you have it.

Read more
Why compression socks during pregnancy are a great idea (and the best ones to get)
Compression socks for pregnancy: When do you need them? What are the best brands?
Woman wearing compression socks

Pregnancy definitely has its glamorous moments, from the glow to the shiny hair, compliments, and congratulations. While some days you may feel amazing and energized, there are certain periods when you're just seeking causes behind pregnancy pain, and then looking for ways to find relief. Because the reality is more often composed of nausea, swollen ankles, and fatigue. Pregnancy may not be Instagram-worthy all the time, but that's why we're here to help you with those delicate questions about the nitty-gritty—like how to know if you need compression socks for pregnancy.

Compression socks for pregnancy can help with swelling
Compression socks for pregnancy come in handy the most during the second trimester when your growing baby's extra weight puts a strain on your lower half. Your body swells with extra blood flow during pregnancy, and the swelling (medically called edema) can get to the point of discomfort.

Read more
Can you take NyQuil while breastfeeding? What you need to know
How to tell if cold medicine is safe to take while breastfeeding
Mother kissing her baby

There is nothing worse than battling a lingering cold that makes you feel horrible. Thankfully, over-the-counter medicines like NyQuil cough, cold, and flu-relief products are some of the most popular nighttime remedies out there, especially for new parents looking to get some sleep when dealing with a cold. But is it safe to use NyQuil cold medicine while breastfeeding?

Some NyQuil and other similar nighttime medications can be perfectly safe for most breastfeeding, women, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consult your doctor first. Although this is a complex medical topic that you should discuss with your trusted licensed medical professional, we can help with some basics for those looking for some relief and a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Read more