Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?

Yes, you can. Ovulation is much less frequent in women who breastfeed compared to those who do not, but pregnancy can occur with lactation.

Although resumption of ovulation is frequently marked by a return of normal menstrual bleeding, ovulation can occur without bleeding. It is also possible to have bleeding without ovulation. The occurrence of ovulation seems to correlate with the frequency and duration of each feeding. Studies have noted that ovulation tends to resume as the length of time between feedings seem to lengthen. For example, mothers may resume ovulation as the baby starts to sleep through the night. Although this is an interesting trend, it is not the rule.

When it comes to ovulation and lactation there is only one rule...if you do not desire pregnancy you must prevent it!

If pregnancy is not desired, begin using birth control after six weeks postpartum. (Most doctors recommend waiting six weeks postpartum before resuming sexual activity.) Options for lactating mothers include barrier methods such as condoms or diaphragms, hormonal methods such as the progesterone "mini-pill," injection, implant, or IUD (intra-uterine device). There is also a non-hormonal IUD that is available. For women that have completed childbearing, there is a simple, in-office sterilization procedure that can be performed within minutes. There are no incisions or need for general anesthesia. Each method of contraception or sterilization has its risks and benefits and should be discussed with your physician. 

Dr. Angela Watson is an OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

Physicians on the medical staff are not employees or agents of the hospital. 

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