There’s an old wives’ tale that you can’t fall pregnant while breastfeeding.
Well you can.
In fact, you’re less fertile, but not infertile. Although you may not menstruate for months after giving birth, your body usually releases it’s first postnatal egg before you get your first period.
The theory behind not being able to fall pregnant while breastfeeding is due to a hormone called prolactin, also known as the milk hormone. Prolactin is what causes the breasts to grow and causes milk to be made after the baby is born.
High levels of prolactin stop you from ovulating, which is where the term lactational amenorrhoea method or LAM comes into play. When you breastfeed, your
baby’s demand for milk actually controls your supply.
When your baby sucks the breast, your pituitary gland releases more prolactin in your blood, increasing your milk production. If you don’t breastfeed, your prolactin levels will return to normal shortly after giving birth. Following the lactational amenorrhoea methodas a form of contraception is very risky as you won’t know when you first ovulate.
If you don’t want to rush into falling pregnant again, the best thing to do is make sure you and your partner use contraception as soon as you start having intercourse again. Your choice in contraceptive methods depends on your health history and whether or not you’re breastfeeding. If you’re not breastfeeding,
you can generally choose any type of contraceptive method such as barrier methods, hormone containing pills or devices.
If you are breastfeeding, barrier methods, progestogen-only methods such as IUD, copper IUD, implanon or the mini-pill (which contains a very small amount of progestogen) is recommended.
Regardless of your choice, your GP is your best source to help you decide on the right method of birth control.
Dr Dasha (Daria) Fielder is the Principal Doctor at Sapphire Family Medical Practice, Bondi Junction. Dr Fielder specialises in children’s health (baby and toddler), women’s health, sexual health and pregnancy.
Aside from general practice, she is a busy mother of three young children. Dr Fielder believes a healthy home is the foundation of a healthy family.