Signs of Ovulation While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding

When you have your baby and decide to breastfeed, you may think you are protected against getting pregnant.  In some cases, this is true.  Women who are breastfeeding exclusively and do not use formula will generally not ovulate, at least for the first six months.  When you start to get your periods again, you are considered fertile and must consider using some kind of birth control.

signs of ovulation while breastfeedingYou actually ovulate about 2 weeks before you have your first real period after having a baby.  This means that you can become pregnant while breastfeeding and must consider yourself to be fertile at any time.  Signs of ovulation while breastfeeding can be subtle.  There may be a reduction in the amount of milk you produce and you may have ovulation spotting at the time the egg is released from the ovary.

When does fertility return?

signs of ovulation while breastfeedingBecoming fertile again doesn’t always start with ovulatory cycles.  You may have menstrual bleeding without having an ovulation or you may have ovulated but will not have a uterine lining that is sufficient to support a pregnancy.   This is called “lacking in luteal competency”.  When you have normal ovulations and your uterus is competent in carrying a pregnancy, you will have normal fertility again.  Remember that it can take several months and up to a year before you begin to have ovulatory cycles.

According to the World Health Organization, women should wait at least 2 years after giving birth before becoming pregnant again.  This allows your body to return to normal and gives you the best chance of having a normal pregnancy. You will also have more time to raise and breastfeed the child you have just given birth to.  There may be financial reasons behind waiting to get pregnant.  Having more than one child in diapers can be expensive and it is worth it to wait until your first child has been potty trained before having another child.

Managing Fertility and Breastfeeding

Because you are breastfeeding, you aren’t automatically not able to get pregnant.  For this reason, you have to think about fertility as soon as you deliver, even if you are planning on breastfeeding your child.  It means you need to think of some way not to get pregnant that is safe while breastfeeding.  Talk to your doctor about the various methods available to you to use while breastfeeding.

Contraception while Breastfeeding

signs of ovulation while breastfeedingThere are various methods you can use to prevent a pregnancy while breastfeeding.  You need to use this method of birth control as it is prescribed and every time you have sex while breastfeeding or you may become pregnant when you hadn’t planned to.  Inconsistent use of birth control methods is one of the major reasons why you can get pregnant while breastfeeding.

You can use the lactational amenorrhea method of preventing pregnancy.  Basically, this means exclusively breastfeeding without supplementing with formula.  This suppresses ovulation so you can’t get pregnant. For this method to be effective in preventing a pregnancy, your baby must be under 6 months of age, your period should not have returned, and you don’t have long periods of time when you aren’t breastfeeding. If, for example, your infant is taking solids or a supplemental formula, the lactational amenorrhea method will not work.

If this method is used perfectly, the failure rate is about 0.45 percent for the first six months of your baby’s life.  It can be as high as 2 percent if you don’t use this method perfectly.  If you are separated from your infant for long periods of time or must express breast milk, the lactational ovulation method will be less effective.

You can also try to become abstinent while breastfeeding.  This will prevent sperm from interacting with an ovulated egg and requires that you make no mistakes.  One time having sex may mean that you may get pregnant.

You can also use the methods that women who are not breastfeeding can use, such as taking your temperature daily, checking your cervical mucus, and charting symptoms of ovulation.  This is done when your periods have begun and have become regular.

You can use the withdrawal method to prevent a pregnancy.   It means that the male completely removes the penis prior to ejaculation.  Ejaculating anywhere near the vaginal opening can result in sperm getting up inside the urethra.  There is some evidence to suggest that pre-ejaculatory fluid contains sperm that could cause you to become pregnant. This varies from male to male.  The withdrawal method fails about 4 percent of the time.

Barrier methods work by preventing sperm from entering the uterus.  These methods are safe to use while breastfeeding and can be very effective.  The most common barrier method used in breastfeeding is the condom.  You can use a male condom or a female condom as they both work about the same. If you use a condom every time you have sex, the failure rate is about 18 percent with a male condom and 21 percent with a female condom.

Another barrier method is the diaphragm.  Have your diaphragm checked and refitted after you give birth as you may have had a significant weight change that affects the fitting of the diaphragm. Diaphragms work best when you use a spermicide with it.

There are hormonal methods of birth control you can use while breastfeeding.  These are not generally the first choice as they can decrease the output of your breastmilk and can interfere with the nutrition your baby receives.


In short, it is difficult to know if you are pregnant while breastfeeding.  You may not notice that your breastmilk production has decreased and you are generally not expecting your period before six months postpartum so, if you get pregnant, you may not be aware of it.  You may simply have to take periodic pregnancy tests and practice as carefully as you can the various methods of contraception mentioned above.

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