Pregnancy While Breastfeeding: You might have heard people say that breastfeeding is a good means of natural contraception and wondered if it is true. While many women do not menstruate while they are breastfeeding, this does not mean that they are not fertile during this time. Using some means of contraception is essential if you are keen on avoiding pregnancy during your breastfeeding days.
Can You Get Pregnant during Breastfeeding?
Yes, it is possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. A mother whose infant is under the age of six months and is exclusively breastfed frequently might not menstruate during this period. But there is no way of determining when her body might decide to release an egg leading to ovulation. So, the chances of pregnancy during breastfeeding exist though it might be marginally lower.
How Does Breastfeeding Affect Pregnancy?
There is increased production of the hormone prolactin in your body as a result of the nipples being stimulated during breastfeeding. Higher levels of prolactin mean a decrease in your fertility. This hormone prevents ovulation and keeps menstruation from happening. Prolactin levels are the highest during night time and soon after you wake up. But, it is important to remember that there can be ovulation even if you do not experience any menstrual flow yet.
Is It Safe to Breastfeed While You Are Pregnant?
You might wonder about the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant as it is common knowledge that breastfeeding can cause uterine contractions. Uterine contractions can induce preterm labor in some instances. But you can set your mind at rest as this is not a problem in a healthy pregnancy. Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin which is what leads to uterine contractions. Since the hormone is released in very small amounts, it is highly unlikely to lead to contractions that can cause preterm labor. Such mild contractions are harmless to the unborn baby and also unlikely to cause a miscarriage.
Baseline Prolactin Levels in Women
The amount of prolactin in a woman’s body will vary depending on whether she is pregnant or not as well as postpartum and during lactation. Here is a sample table to give you an idea of normal prolactin levels:
|Your Condition||Prolactin (mg/ml)|
|Not pregnant and not lactating||<25|
|Pregnant (Full Term)||200|
|Postpartum (7 days) and lactating||100|
|Postpartum (3 months) and lactating||100|
|Postpartum (6 months), lactating, no menstruation||110|
|Postpartum (6 months), lactating, menstruating||70|
|Postpartum (9 months) and lactating||50|
Common Pregnancy Signs While You Are Breastfeeding
If you become pregnant while breastfeeding there are some symptoms that you might experience such as:
1. Excessive Thirst: You might start to feel quite thirsty frequently, and this is common during breastfeeding as your baby will be consuming a major chunk of the fluids you take in. But if you are pregnant while breastfeeding, it could heighten your thirst as the new baby will also require fluids and will be drawing this from your body.
2. Feeling Tired: Being fatigued is one of the common pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding. J
3. Tender and Painful Breasts: This is one symptom that you are likely to attribute to breastfeeding your baby. However, if you suddenly experience increased nipple sensitivity or find your nipples extra painful and sore after breastfeeding, then you might want to take a pregnancy test. Using a nipple shield or specific ointments intended for the purpose might give you some relief.
4. Reduced Milk Production: If you feel that your milk production has significantly decreased and your baby remains hungry even after a normal feed, then it might be due to pregnancy. This usually occurs after about two months of pregnancy but cannot be completely ruled out in the early stages of your pregnancy either. Also, the taste of your breast milk is likely to change if you are pregnant and this might become evident when a baby refuses to feed or seems to feed with unwillingness. Some babies might also start weaning themselves from breast milk as a result of these changes.