Can You Get Pregnant If You're Breastfeeding?

Do You Need To Use Birth Control?

Does breastfeeding prevent pregnancy or should you use birth control?
Can you get pregnant if you're breastfeeding?. Daniel Allan/Getty Images

Can You Get Pregnant If You're Breastfeeding? 

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant again, even if you're breastfeeding. While exclusive breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy, certain conditions must be met if you want to use breastfeeding as a method of birth control. If you decide to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding or if you choose to pump exclusively for your baby, then you cannot rely on breastfeeding alone to prevent pregnancy.

So, if you are involved in a sexual relationship, and you do not want to have another child right away, talk to your doctor about your birth control options. There are many safe and effective forms of birth control available for nursing women.

Note: This article is about preventing another pregnancy while breastfeeding.  If you're breastfeeding, and you WANT to get pregnant again skip to Breastfeeding, Fertility, and Infertility.  

Exclusive Breastfeeding and LAM

If you're breastfeeding exclusively, then the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) can be used to prevent pregnancy for the first six months after your baby is born. When all of the criteria for LAM are met, and it is followed correctly, it is up 98% effective. If you are not breastfeeding exclusively, or you no longer meet the criteria for LAM, then you should consider another form of contraception.

Birth Control Options 

Some forms of contraception do not contain any hormones.

These methods are safe to use while you're breastfeeding because they do not have any effect on breastfeeding, your baby, or your breast milk supply. Non-hormonal birth control methods include Natural Family Planning (NFP), male condoms, female condoms, the diaphragm, the cervical cap, the sponge, the copper IUD, spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies, tubal ligation, and vasectomy.

There are also two categories of hormonal contraception. Progestin-only types of birth control such as the mini-pillthe Mirena IUD, the Depo-Provera injection, and the progestin-only implant, are considered safe and effective for nursing mothers. However, hormonal contraception that contains estrogen, such as the combination pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring, can cause a decrease in your supply of breast milk and should be avoided.

Tips For Starting Birth Control While Breastfeeding:

  • Talk to your doctor about your birth control options and be sure to let her know that you're breastfeeding.
  • Talk to your partner and decide on a method together.
  • If you are planning to breastfeed exclusively, you may be able to use the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) for the first six months. Learn more about the criteria for LAM to see if will work for you. 
  • Do not start any type of hormonal birth control, including progestin-only methods, until at least six weeks postpartum. Delaying the use of hormonal birth control will help to prevent any interference with the establishment of your breast milk supply.
  • If possible, avoid birth control that contains estrogen. If you must use a method that contains estrogen, use the smallest dose possible and monitor your supply of breast milk. 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition. Mosby. 2011.

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