Breast health

Truth or a Myth? You cannot become pregnant while breastfeeding

A woman’s menstrual cycle is closely connected with fertility, dictating her ability to become pregnant. When a woman is breastfeeding, the hormonal baseline in her bodies changes. During this period the natural ovulation process and menstrual bleeding stops, inhibiting the woman’s ability to become pregnant. Continue reading, to learn more about the conditions that must be met to effectively use this form of birth control – otherwise referred to as lactational amenorrhea.

How does lactational amenorrhea work?

Lactational amenorrhea is a temporary family planning method that relies on the natural impact that breastfeeding has on fertility. Put simply, women lose their periods when they are breastfeeding, thereby preventing their ability to become pregnant. However, to ensure that this method is truly effective, several conditions must be met at the same time:

1. The newborn must be exclusively breastfed. If the newborn in addition to breastmilk is fed with formula or other food, this method will not be effective. The newborn must be exclusively breastfed all the time – including during the nights. Additionally, this method does not intend for the use of a dummy or a feeding bottle. All the baby’s suckling needs, including comfort suckling, must be supplied by the mother.
2. The newborn must be younger than six months. It has been proven that the contraceptive effect during this transitional process in a woman's body is effective for approximately six months after giving birth. The exact time is dependent on each person individually.
3. A woman's menstruation cannot have returned until the newborn is at least 6 months old. Even though this is an important factor, remember that it is only effective and consistent with the previous two points. Therefore, even if your menstruation has not started after the designated six-month period, it is advised to use this form of birth control only for this period.

However, it is crucial to point out that even if all the prerequisite criteria are met, there is still a chance of becoming pregnant – pregnancy can occur before experiencing a period because ovulation (the process when an egg is released and ready for fertilization) has taken place before experiencing a menstrual bleed. If menstrual symptoms, like bleeding, are easily noticeable then it is much harder to distinguish when the ovulation process has taken place.

The safest methods of birth control whilst breastfeeding 

If you are not planning on having a child anytime soon, gynaecologists do not recommend relying on the contraceptive properties of breastfeeding. Especially if you are not fully confident in your ability to fulfil all of the necessary requirements. The first few months with a new-born are extremely demanding on a young mother's energy and strength reserves, which can negatively impact the ability to maintain all of the conditions necessary for making this birth control method effective. The safest methods of contraception for the mother as well as the child during this period is the intrauterine device (IUD), progestin-based birth control pills or condoms. It is important to note that lactational amenorrhea as a form of birth control will not prevent the risk of STDs – that can only be done with the use of condoms. Unless you are in an stable, long-term relationship the use of condoms remains the most highly advised method of birth control. 

Breastfeeding is an additional factor to consider when beginning or returning to the use of any birth control method, therefore it is important to consult a trusted health professional on the right form of birth control for you. You can learn more about various methods of contraception, the associated risks and effectiveness by completing the educational contraception test here. Moreover, if you would like to receive a personal consultation about the birth control effects of breastfeeding, you can always turn to a breastfeeding specialist that will guide you through any potential problems and give you advice on how to use the method effectively.

Early pregnancy after a caesarean section

It is particularly important to be cautious and actively avoid repeated pregnancy for women who have recently undergone a caesarean section. The healing of the scar requires time before it is safe to plan another child. Early pregnancy after a c-section is high-risk as the embryo can implant in the scar tissue inside of the womb, the placenta can develop in the wrong way and other complications. Pregnancy soon after a caesarean section can result in serious risks for the health of the child and the mother, therefore the use of the lactational amenorrhea method is not advised, as it has a potential to result in pregnancy during this period of scar healing.