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Can a breastfeeding woman get pregnant?
Q: Can I get pregnant if I’m breastfeeding?
A: You can get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding, though this is extremely unlikely during the first three to six months if you breastfeed exclusively. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the only liquid you give your baby is your breast milk. Breastfeeding increases the levels of a hormone that prevents your body from ovulating. Without ovulation, you won’t be able to conceive.

Your chance of becoming pregnant during the first three months of lactation will be similar to your chance of pregnancy with birth control. Breastfeeding is thought to be 98 percent effective. If you supplement your baby’s feedings with formula or water, the effectiveness will be lower.

Between three and six months postpartum, many breastfeeding women resume monthly ovulation. Therefore, it’s advisable to begin a reliable birth control method by three months postpartum. If you’re sexually active, you shouldn’t wait until your first menstrual cycle to initiate birth control. Ovulation is unpredictable and will occur before you have your first period. Thus, it will be possible to become pregnant even without resuming your period.

You should discuss birth control with your healthcare provider at your postpartum visit. Barrier methods of birth control (such as condoms), spermicides, progesterone-only contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are all popular contraceptive methods for nursing mums.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist