July 02, 2015

Q: And how likely and I to get pregnant while breastfeeding?

A: Acutally, breastfeeding DECREASES fertility.  As delivery ends and the placenta is delivered, there are immediate hormonal changes that occur in a woman's body to allow her to begin making milk to feed her infant.  Elevated levels of prolactin help produce milk.  However, prolactin also suppresses estrogen production, which in turn, suppresses ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary).  When a woman isn't ovulating, she can't conceive.  So, in most cases, when a woman breastfeeds full-time, she can't get pregnant because she isn't ovulating.  However, this highly complicated hormonal system isn't perfect.  There are some women who continue to ovulate and have menstrual periods even while breastfeeding.  This is especially true in women who are only breastfeeding a few times a day while supplementing with formula or as a woman weans her feedings to once or twice a day.  This means that pregnancy can occur (because ovulation can occur in these circumstances) if a couple is not using any form of protection.  So, it is always recommended that breastfeeding women use some form of birth control in addition to breastfeeding.

Answered by Dr. Michele Hakakha