Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
by Judy Dutton
If you're nursing a newborn, sex may be the last thing on your mind ... still, though, if you and your hubby end up raring to get it on during some rare interlude when the little tyke is asleep, a very important question may crop up: Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Oh that. Yes, let us talk about the possibilities ...
The answer is probably not -- that is, if you're breastfeeding exclusively, says Jenny Jaque, a board-certified OBGYN of Healthgoesfemale.com. The reason: Breastfeeding increases your levels of the hormone prolactin, which suppresses ovulation. No ovulation, no pregnancy. "Research shows it's 98 percent effective in preventing an unplanned pregnancy," says Jaque.
While those odds sound fairly airtight, keep in mind this only applies to moms whobreastfeed on demand (at least every three hours) and around the clock (through the night). If your hubby grabs a bottle and takes a night shift so you can get some shut-eye for more than six hours, this could cause prolactin levels to dip long enough that ovulation could kick back in. Pumping doesn't count, either -- your body knows the difference between a baby and a pump -- so if you're back at work or away from your little one for long stretches, your odds of pregnancy rise even if you're pumping like a maniac and still nursing at home. And once your baby starts supplementing breast milk with food (typically around 6 months), all bets are off.
More from The Stir: Why Breastfeeding Your Husband Isn't Such a Bad Idea
Needless to say, if you get your period, that means you're ovulating, and that means pregnancy is a possibility even if you're still breastfeeding. Of course, even if you haven't resumed menstruating, that doesn't mean you're definitely in the clear. "Ovulation occurs before menstruation, so a mom can go from the birth of a baby into a next pregnancy without a period," warns Leigh Anne O'Connor, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, who "has worked with scores of women who got pregnant while breastfeeding."
Bottom line? If you absolutely don't want kids back to back, get some birth control.
Did you get pregnant while breastfeeding?
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