Fact check: can you actually, really get pregnant while you're still breastfeeding? 3 months ago

Fact check: can you actually, really get pregnant while you're still breastfeeding?

After the birth of my first child, I remember popping into my GP for a check-up.

My then newborn (she's now almost five years), Giulia, was thankfully healthy and happy and it was all fairly routine.

"Have you thought about contraception?" my GP then asked me going through a list of standard questions for new mums.

"Ah no sure I'm grand sure I'm breastfeeding," was my immediate (naive) response.

Yup, aged 29 and with a child, and a husband, and a mortgage, I nevertheless assumed that when you're breastfeeding you can't actually, really get pregnant.

Incorrect. Wrong. Inaccurate. A dangerous game.

My GP - in fairness to her - gave me a quick biology lesson and I look back now bemused at my ignorance.

Still, on both my children I didn't get my period again until after I stopped breastfeeding - so what are the facts?

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Here, HerFamily takes a look...

1) There IS truth to it

If you're exclusively breastfeeding you can use a type of birth control called Lactational Amenorrhea Method - or LAM, because constant, regular breastfeeding means you won't ovulate.

However, you need to be feeding every four hours during the day and every six hours at night - and you can't express milk or give your baby formula. In the early days when your newborn is feeding a lot, this is probably fairly manageable. But as your little ones grows your feeding routine will change and you'll go longer in between feeds.

Indeed, irrespective of how often you're feeding, LAM also only works for the first six months postpartum.

2) But you need to plan

For all of the above reasons - "mothers should not wait until the return of their menstrual period before starting contraception as ovulation precedes menstruation making pregnancy possible," warns breastfeeding.ie.

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So what are you contraception options if you are breastfeeding and don't want to run the risk of another pregnancy so soon after giving birth?

Immediately:

  • Lactational amenorrhoea method
  • Intrauterine device
  • Condoms

Under 4 weeks:

  • Progestogen-only pill
  • Progestogen-only implant
  • Progestogen-only EC

From 4 weeks:

  • Intrauterine device
  • Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system

From 6 weeks:

  • Progestogen-only contraception (provides more than 99 percent efficacy)
  • Combined oral contraception (has an adverse effect on milk volume so should be avoided in the first six weeks postpartum)
  • Diaphragms and cervical caps

 

*Chat to your GP or public health nurse about your options and what works best for you