Breastfeeding's Biggest Lie: You can't get pregnant
THE BIG LIE: Breastfeeding is a great method of birth control
NO IT’S NOT
Please know that if you didn’t know this or you’re one of those women who got pregnant sooner than they intended, it’s not your fault. You aren’t dumb, you weren’t provided with the information you needed to make an informed choice about your body. And in some cases, you’ve been flat out lied to.
There’s so much misinformation online about this “benefit of breastfeeding”. It’s not a benefit. It’s a lie. And it’s not helping women learn about their postpartum bodies.
CAN YOU GET PREGNANT IF YOU BREASTFEED?
I took a lactation course in 2013 and the lactation consultant made it really clear that breastfeeding is not guaranteed to stop ovulation. My prenatal course nurse said the same thing. And guess what, I’ve been selling maternity clothes since 2015, and I’ve heard this so many times, “I was breastfeeding, I didn’t know I could get pregnant!” One woman, was only 6 weeks postpartum when she found out she was expecting again. Time to debunk the big lie about the Lactation Amenorrhea birth control Method.
There is no way to know when your period (and your fertility) will return when you breastfeed. You might get a month, you might get the full duration of the time you breastfeed.
If you use breastfeeding as a birth control method, you’re playing Russian Roulette with sperm.
How your body works:
It's an internal hormone shift that triggers your body to start ovulating again. This shift could be genetic, stress induced, or breastfeeding induced. In all cases, prolactin levels drop and estrogen levels begin to increase. And this is what causes your period to return.
Here’s what I mean by breastfeeding induced.
When demand for breastfeeding starts to decline, your body could trigger ovulation. Breastfeeding, and the prolactin hormone, suppresses the production of estrogen. Prolactin, the hormone that causes you to make milk, also stops you from ovulating and having your period.
Where does Prolactin come from?
Prolactin is made in your pituitary gland, which is a small gland in the middle of the head just below the brain. The pituitary contains lactotroph cells that produce prolactin, the hormone that stimulates lactation. When your blood contains high levels of prolactin, the hormone interferes with the function of the ovaries and in the secretion of estradiol (the main female sex hormone [estrogen] in women). (source).
High levels of prolactin mean low levels of estrogen. You can’t have a period if your estrogen is low.
The image of the vulva was illustrated by LUCY HAN
Let’s review how your period works
A period happens because of changes in hormones in the body. Hormones are chemical messengers. The ovaries release the female hormone estrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause the lining of the uterus (or womb) to build up, and the release of an egg. The built-up lining is ready for a fertilized egg to attach. If there’s no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds, and you get your period.
To review, a decline in breastfeeding causes a decline in prolactin which acts as an estrogen suppresser. If your estrogen levels (made in your ovaries) rises, then your uterus is triggered to start lining itself to get ready for an egg. And your fertile again.
What causes a decline in Prolactin while breastfeeding?
A change in breastfeeding frequency. This can happen when
- Baby starts sleeping through the night
- Returning to work and shifting from feeding on demand to pumping (this might be a trigger because less milk is pulled from the breast, but also because the loss of skin to skin time which also releases hormones)
- Introducing solids
- Supplementing with formula
Let’s be clear, adding pumping to your feeding regiment to try to keep your prolactin levels up is not guaranteed to work. Genetics, food, what’s in your drinking water, environment, and stress can affect the hormone levels in your body.
You can’t see what’s happening inside your body. There is no way for you to know when your body will start producing more estrogen and bring back fertility. If you don’t want to get pregnant again, DO NOT USE BREASTFEEDING AS A BIRTH CONTROL METHOD.
I hope you found this helpful. Comment and let me know what you’ve learned.
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