Can You Really Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
By Korin Miller; Photograph by
You’re not getting your period—so how would you even tell?!
It’s a common myth that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding a baby—but is there any truth to it?
Well, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, you may experience something known as lactational amenorrhea, which means you don’t get your period because you’re breastfeeding. Your body produces the hormone prolactin to allow you to nurse and that hormone suppresses oestrogen, which is why this happens, says women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider.
Still, if you’re having sex, getting pregnant is always a possibility—and that’s something a lot of women don’t realise. “Many women are under the impression that breastfeeding will protect them from getting pregnant again but this isn’t always the case,” says women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider. “A woman can ovulate while she is breastfeeding, but sometimes it’s difficult to detect, especially if she doesn’t have a normal period.”
Since most women tend to look at their period as a monthly reminder that they’re not pregnant, having no period, an infrequent one, or a really light one due to breastfeeding can really mess with you. But even if your period isn’t regular while you’re breastfeeding, you can still get pregnant. You also ovulate before you get a period, which some women don’t realise, says Dr. Sherry A. Ross, a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.
Bottom line: You can get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, and it’s crucial to be aware of that fact.
So how would you even know if you were expecting? There are a few signs that can tip you off when your period isn’t in play, but it’s a little harder than when you’re not breastfeeding. “It definitely can be challenging to know if you are pregnant before getting your period while breastfeeding,” Ross says.
Here’s what you should look out for:
1/ YOU’RE WIPED OUT
Pregnancy is tough on your body and it can make you feel tired—but it can be hard to know the difference between pregnancy-related fatigue and new mom tiredness, Ross points out. So just be mindful if you feel overly exhausted on top of other potential pregnancy symptoms.
2/ YOU’RE PEEING MORE THAN USUAL
Extra blood flow to the developing foetus produces more urine in your kidneys, Wider explains. But don’t look at this as your only pregnancy symptom: Breastfeeding often makes women thirsty because you tend to drink (and pee more) to replace the fluids you lose by feeding your baby.
3/ YOU FEEL NAUSEOUS
When you get pregnant, your body has a surge in the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)—and that can make you feel super-sick, Wider says.
4/ YOUR BOOBS ARE SORE
Hormonal fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone cause breast tenderness, Wider says. But this symptom is tricky given that you can also experience it with breastfeeding.
Luckily, Wider says there are several birth control methods that are considered safe to use while you’re nursing, including condoms, IUDs, the mini-pill, and the shot. Diaphragms and progesterone arm implants like Nexplanon can also be effective, Ross says.
While you can get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, you shouldn’t panic over the risk—just be smart about using a backup. “It’s not incredibly common, but it can happen,” Wider says. “If you are having sex while breastfeeding, it’s important to use contraception.”
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