Is it possible to conceive as breastfeeding mom?
The short answer is yes, but there's a huge range when it comes to the timeframe in which fertility will return, postpartum.
Ever heard of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) of contraception? It’s the ‘official’ name given to describe how breastfeeding can impact fertility, but it is very specific in how and when it can be used effectively.
LAM is effective only when all three of the following criteria are met:
• Mom’s menstrual bleed has not yet returned after birth.
• Baby is younger than 6 months of age.
• Baby is exclusively breastfed.
Without all of these boxes being ticked, another pregnancy is a possibility, and since ovulation occurs before the cycle’s bleed, fertility will return before the arrival of mom’s first period, postpartum.
There’s no way of knowing when the first ovulatory cycle will return after birth. Some breastfeeding moms find that their period returns within the fourth trimester, while others will see a return of menstruation when their baby is a thriving toddler…the range is vast!
This makes it particularly challenging to plan for a pregnancy, and is a reason why many moms turn to fertility awareness methods when thinking about expanding their family.
Fertility awareness methods can be used to help plan for (or avoid) pregnancy, and are founded on the principle that understanding our unique bodily signs and signals equips us with the knowledge of when in our cycles we are likely to be most (and least) fertile.
Fertility awareness methods:
- Hormonal: At-home urine tests detect the production of key fertility hormones.
- Mucus: Observation and charting of cervical mucus to determine the current phase of the menstrual cycle.
- Sympto-thermal: Observation of basal body temperature (temperature upon waking), cervical mucus, and biological signs such as changes in the cervix.
Basal body temperature tracking is considered a gold standard in determining whether ovulation has occurred, because after ovulation, body temperature rises and remains higher until the next cycle starts. Many women rely solely on temperature tracking, but combining temperature readings with observations of bodily changes can more accurately define the fertility window and give a deeper understanding of the body’s unique rhythms and cycles.
While for some, tracking is a simple morning ritual, it can feel like yet-another-task-to-complete for postpartum moms who have been up all night with a wakeful baby. Remembering to check our body temperature at the same time each morning is something that's easy to forget or forgo...
There are, thankfully, options available to support the process, and one that I love is Tempdrop.
Tempdrop is an all-in-one fertility monitor, with a wearable sensor that syncs to a charting app, to track your fertility window.
The reason why Tempdrop is particuary well suited to breastfeeding or postpartum moms is because it remains accurate for women who have irregular sleep schedules. The sensor, worn around the upper arm during the night, monitors body temperature while you sleep - whether that’s over a full eight hour stretch, or in hourly chunks in between night feeds - which removes the need to wake and manually check at the same time each morning.
The sensor is safe and non-invasive, and the accompanying app’s algorithm is tailored to learn your personal rhythms, without reliance on generic data or non-individualised assumptions.
With this knowledge, it becomes much easier to ascertain whether ovulation is happening, and to better plan for pregnancy.
Throughout history, women have conceived while breastfeeding and continued to breastfeeding throughout pregnancy. Many will go on to tandem nurse their newborn and older nursling.
For those of us whose cycles take many months to return, being able to chart ovulatory signs can be extremely helpful for removing the ‘guesswork’ from our postpartum family planning.
If you’re interested in giving Tempdrop a try, they’ve kindly given me a discount code for 10% off! Follow this link and use code MOTHERNOURISHNURTURE at checkout.
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