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Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?

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Is it really true that you cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding? We find out.

"I never knew I could get pregnant while I was breastfeeding as I thought that you can't," says Rashmi, mother of nine-month-old baby girl who is five months pregnant again. In fact, many of her other friends were quite shocked to know that Rashmi conceived while breastfeeding as there is a general perception that you can't.

Like Rashmi (and her friends), some mothers believe that you cannot get pregnant while you are breastfeeding, especially if you still haven't got your period after delivery. Medically, this condition is known as lactational amenorrhea, which means that new mothers have little to no menstruation.

What is lactation amenorrhea?

Lactational amenorrhea is the temporary postnatal infertility that occurs when a woman is amaenorrheic (not menstruating) and fully breastfeeding.

But does it mean that you can't get pregnant at all? Looks like you can because while you are not menstruating, you might be ovulating.

"As a doctor's point of view, the chances of your becoming pregnant while you are breastfeeding are much less. This is because of the hormonal imbalance that happens in your body when you are breastfeeding, which delays ovulation. And, of course you need to ovulate to get pregnant, " says Dr Rahul Manchanda, a leading consultant Gynaecologist Endoscopic surgeon at Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute (PSRI) in New Delhi, India.

breastfeeding week

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Science says that new mothers usually do not ovulate until 6 weeks postpartum. A small number of women will ovulate earlier, potentially putting them at risk for pregnancy sooner, although the fertility of these early ovulations is not well-established.

However, as the mother is not getting her period she might miss on the signs of ovulation. This is how some women like Rashmi can get pregnant without even having their periods back between pregnancies.

Breastfeeding and fertility

Normally it is said that exclusive breastfeeding prolongs the return of a woman's cycle, especially in the first six months postpartum. This means that a woman who is exclusive breastfeeding her infant would have a low fertility for the first few weeks. But no one can really tell you how long will that infertility last.

Continue reading on the next page to know what you should do to not get pregnant while breastfeeding!

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