Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding? Is It possible?
There are many doubts, myths, challenges regarding breastfeeding while pregnant. Know all about it along with tips for successful breastfeeding during pregnancy
Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey filled with many joys and challenges where breastfeeding strengthens the bond between the mother and the baby and it is a very emotional and sensitive bond but what happens if mother is expecting a second baby while breastfeeding? Many mothers during this stage get into the stage of the dilemma of weaning the first baby and carrying on with the second pregnancy or continuing breastfeeding while pregnant.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Asha Kumari, Consultant-Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Daffodils By Artemis in Jaipur, explained, “The relationship between breastfeeding and fertility is complex, and several factors are to be considered. Breastfeeding can delay the return of menstruation due to the release of the hormone prolactin, which inhibits ovulation. This phase, known as lactational amenorrhea, provides some contraceptive protection. The effectiveness of lactational amenorrhea as contraception depends on breastfeeding frequency and intensity.”
She elaborated, “Exclusive breastfeeding, feeding at least every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night, can offer better protection. Supplementing with formula or introducing solid foods can reduce this protection. Every woman's body responds differently to breastfeeding. Some may experience a longer delay in ovulation, while others might resume ovulating sooner. Monitoring changes in cervical mucus and tracking basal body temperature can help in providing insights into ovulation patterns. As breastfeeding frequency decreases and weaning begins, the probability of ovulation happening increases. Women can also ovulate before their first postpartum period. Contraceptive methods should be discussed as breastfeeding patterns change.”
Dr Asha Kumari suggested, “To prevent an unplanned pregnancy while breastfeeding, considering contraceptive methods is crucial. It's advised to consult with a gynecologist to discuss the best contraceptive option based on individual health, breastfeeding habits, and future family planning goals. Pregnancy while breastfeeding is possible but can be managed through careful consideration of breastfeeding patterns, contraception methods, and individual variability. Seeking guidance from a gynecologist ensures making a well-informed decision that aligns with your reproductive health goals.”
Dr Deepika M Pahwa (PT), Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Womens Health Physiotherapist at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in Gurgaon, said, “It’s an emotional decision for a mother but she needs the right guidance for the same. Yes, a mother can breastfeed the first baby while being pregnant with the second baby except in medically complicated cases.”
Benefits of Breastfeeding While Pregnant:
Dr Deepika M Pahwa highlighted the following tips for successful breastfeeding during pregnancy -
- Continued Nutritional support: Breast milk remains a great source of nutrition for your older baby or toddler, even when you are pregnant. It contains vital nutrients, immunoglobulins, and many other components that can help your older baby's physical and mental development.
2. Trust and emotional bonding: Mother and baby share a strong emotional bond. Baby feels secure with Mother as its home for the baby. If a mother decides to continue breastfeeding along with pregnancy this is easy for Mother and baby to sell through this process of change and transition or else sudden weaning might affect the baby’s emotional and mental health.
3. Cost effective: Continuing breastfeeding toddler while pregnant reduces cost of formula or other supplements too.
Dr Deepika M Pahwa cautioned -
- Decision making: It’s a personal choice because in pregnancy there are physical and emotional discomforts that mother has to bear along with feeding her older child. As Mother is in this dilemma whether to continue breastfeeding or not, she requires help from health care providers, and lactation consultants to ensure it's safe and healthy for both Mother and baby. Usually, in most pregnancies it is considered safe to breastfeed an older child but sometimes medical complications are there so it’s a must to involve your healthcare provider to make any decision on whether to continue breastfeeding or not.
2.Nutrition needs: Breastfeeding the first child and carrying a baby, in both cases Mother needs a well-balanced diet. The mother should consult a health care provider to provide a diet that is sufficient for the Mother in terms of calories as well as nutrition as she is managing three lives i.e., the Mother herself, the older baby, and the fetus inside.
3. Milk supply and its composition: As pregnancy progresses, there are lots of hormonal changes which might affect milk supply or its composition, taste, or might not at all affect any of these. So, it's different with each mother and baby, some babies might wean off naturally as there is reduced supply or change in taste. Some babies continue breastfeeding with low supply also just for comfort and that emotional bonding.
4. False contractions: Some mothers might experience false uterine contractions while breastfeeding during pregnancy. Usually, these contractions are safe but if Mother observes any strong, frequent contractions then consult a healthcare provider without any delay.
5.Breast changes: Many hormonal and physical changes are happening in Mother’s body which affects Mother in many ways. Nausea, vomiting, tender breast, and tiredness might affect the mother and she might start feeling breastfeeding aversion and she might not like to feed her older baby. She should communicate with the older child about all these openly as it's very important to listen to your own body.
Dr Deepika M Pahwa added, “Mother would be providing nourishment and love to her older child and fetus too, this will be a unique, challenging and satisfactory experience. Yes, it might be a difficult journey but a woman is so strong that she can sail through this with confidence if she gets the right information and support from family, friends, lactation consultants, health care providers and from mothers who have fed their baby during pregnancy. She can be part of many breastfeeding groups at hospitals or on social media. Nowadays many breastfeeding helplines are also available which provide immense breastfeeding support.”
Khyati Choudhary, Founder of MyBirthSquad and LCCE, Lactation Expert, said, “It is true that you can get pregnant while breastfeeding. As per the WHO Recommendations for Breastfeeding, newborn baby must be exclusively breastfed for 6 months and ideally every mother should try and continue breastfeeding after 6 months for next two years along with the complementary food. For the initial 6 months the baby should be exclusively breastfed at least 8 to 10 times in 24 hours. This is referred to as an effective birth control method for 6 months if exclusive breastfeeding is done. This will not let ovulation happen hence, when there is no egg then no fertilization therefore chances of getting pregnant decreases but if not done exclusively and formula feed is also being given to the baby then chances of getting pregnant increases. This makes you ovulate before you get your periods. Until you get your first periods and then miss the next one then only you get to know that you're pregnant again.”
She concluded, “For breastfeeding and pregnancy, the call must be taken by your gynecologist. If the pregnancy is a healthy one, then we can continue but if there is a history of miscarriages or some complications then breastfeeding will not be recommended. As the Hormone Oxytocin that helps in milk letdown during breastfeeding can induce labor in the form of uterine contractions when you are pregnant. Therefore, we really must see how long the pregnant mother can continue breastfeeding while being pregnant. It's better to go for other forms of birth control methods if not doing exclusive breastfeeding and feeding a baby post 6 months.”