Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding
By Hilary Flower, author of ADVENTURES IN TANDEM NURSING: BREASTFEEDING DURING PREGNANCY
AND BEYOND, published by La Leche League International
So you’re breastfeeding and dreaming of a new baby?
– Can I get pregnant before my first
Good news! Lots of moms are able to conceive a new
baby without having to wean their current nursling. Let’s look at seven of the most common questions.
Yes! Some lucky and patient moms manage to “catch
– Do I have to wean in order to get
the first egg.” While you are still amenorrhoeic you can monitor your returning fertility on a family planning chart.
Patience is the key, because the amenorrheic period when changes are occurring can involve weeks or
Probably not. It is true that breastfeeding can delay the
months of wet cervical fluid. Weschler’s Taking Charge
return of fertility, especially while frequency and duration
of Your Fertility
has great information on this.
of breastfeeding sessions remain high. But most women can become fully fertile while still breastfeeding. 1
– I have had problems with infertility
in the past; should I wean before treatments?
– Is there a way to bring my fertility
If you’re eager to become pregnant first steps may include charting some cycles or reducing breastfeeding
Try tinkering with your breastfeeding pattern. Each pair
to evaluate your fertility status. If you are not ready to try
is different. There is no magic or typical threshold of
to conceive, though, you may do well to take precautions
breastfeeding intensity which predicts the return of
fertility. Abrupt changes generally bring back fertility more rapidly and at a higher threshold of breastfeeding
Although there is no direct research, there is no obvious
frequency than gradual changes.1
reason to believe that fertility treatments would harm the breast milk. To find out the latest on how a particular
Of course, you and your child would have to be ready for
drug affects breastfeeding, turn to Thomas Hale, MD’s
a radical change. And bear in mind, your body may be
Medications and Mothers’ Milk
. Clinical observations
trying to space your children more so as to prolong the
suggest that Clomid (Clomiphene) is compatible with
special status your current nursling is enjoying!
And there is no reason to expect that
breastfeeding would affect your fertility treatment
– My menstrual cycle has returned;
because the drugs will control your cycle. 3
– Is it safe to continue breastfeeding
If you are experiencing regular menstrual cycles, and if
you were normally fertile before, chances are you have returned to normal fertility. Long, short, or irregular
Breastfeeding is believed to be compatible with healthy
cycles can be a sign that your cycles are not yet fertile.
pregnancies. Many moms go on to nurse throughout
Sometimes it’s just the way your body works; it helps if
pregnancy and nurse both newborn and toddler
you have a record of your cycles from before you were
together, an arrangement known as tandem nursing.
For the latest in research related to breastfeeding and such concerns as preterm labor, miscarriage, and the
– How can I tell if I am fertile?
nutrition of the unborn child, see my book Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding during Pregnancy and Beyond
If you wish to know more about your fertility status, you can gain remarkable insights using simple family
planning methods. Toni Weschler, MPH, includes a section on charting during breastfeeding in her wonderful
1. McNeilly, AS, Glasier, AF, Howie PW, Houston MJ, Cook A,
guide Taking Charge of Your Fertility
Boyle H. Fertility after childbirth: Pregnancy associated with breastfeeding. Clinical Endocrinology (1983) 18:167-173.
2. Hale, Thomas, MD, personal communication 2002.
3. McNeilly, Alan, PhD, personal communication, 2002. McNeilly is the world’s leading researcher on the return of fertility during lactation.
Getting pregnant while breastfeeding
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