Breastfeeding and Pregnant

Sometimes, a breastfeeding mom may find that she is exhibiting symptoms that seem to be akin to those of pregnancy, and this may come as a surprise for many folk have come to look at breastfeeding as a natural birth-control method. Whilst it is true that breastfeeding can provide a measure of protection against pregnancy, it is by no means a fail-safe method of contraception and such symptoms of pregnancy as the absence of a menstrual period, weight gain, gas retention, nausea and fatigue may become present even though breastfeeding is ongoing. However, it can prove somewhat difficult at times to detect such symptoms if they are present, because the act of breastfeeding can mask some of these signs. Thus, it is important that breastfeeding moms should know how they can identify these pregnancy symptoms if they do arise. Generally speaking, the main cause of pregnancy symptoms in breastfeeding moms is the obvious one; pregnancy.

The most common pregnancy indicator worldwide is the cessation of menstruation and nursing moms ought to keep a proper track of their menstrual cycle. Although it is possible to become pregnant before the resumption of the cycle after childbirth, this is uncommon. Once the cycle has restarted, a proper watch ought to be kept, as a missing period may indicate pregnancy.

The breastfeeding mom ought to take careful notice of any physical changes that her body undergoes as pregnancy normally affects the body in various ways. Changes in the breasts size and sensitivity are a common early signs of pregnancy. Such changes may be somewhat difficult to notice when one is breastfeeding, as the breasts are commonly larger and more sensitive when breastfeeding is ongoing. Other common signs of pregnancy such as nausea, vomiting, increased urination and increased fatigue may better alert the breastfeeding mom to the possibility of a new pregnancy.

Changes in the way that baby feeds may also be a pregnancy symptom. Pregnancy will likely affect milk production levels as well as the texture of the milk that is produced. Production levels are liable to decrease and the milk produced may lose its white color and take on a yellowish color, somewhat similar to the colostrum that is produced before the full breast milk comes in. If baby no longer seems to get enough milk, or if he/she goes off the milk that mom is producing, this may be a sign that mom is pregnant, especially if these symptoms are combined with other pregnancy symptoms.

If the breastfeeding mom thinks that she may be pregnant, she should take a pregnancy test. Simple self applied tests are widely available and it does not seem that the results provided by such tests are affected by breastfeeding. Whether or not such a test returns a positive result, it is useful to visit a physician so as to confirm one way or the other whether pregnancy is the cause of the symptoms that the breastfeeding mom is experiencing. There are other conditions which may give rise to these pregnancy-like symptoms. For instance, infections such as thrush or mastitis can cause the nipples to be sore while some reproductive tract problems, like ovarian cysts, may give rise to pregnancy-like symptoms such as weight gain, nausea, etc.

If the breastfeeding mom is actually pregnant, she may be advised to cease breastfeeding especially if she has a history of preterm labor or is at risk of going into such labor (e.g. if she is experiencing uterine pain and/or bleeding). This is because breastfeeding causes the production of a hormone, oxytocin, which stimulates milk production but also causes the uterus to contract. These contractions are not usually strong enough to cause any problems to a pregnancy, but specific cases may be at greater risk than the generality of breastfeeding moms. In any case, because of increased breast and nipple tenderness, the frequency of breastfeeding might have to be reduced. Also, the need for adequate nutrition and proper hydration cannot be overemphasized. Each of the conditions, breastfeeding and pregnancy, require proper nutrition; when both are combined, the need for such nutrition rises sharply so that the pregnancy is not put at risk and also to counter the milk-reducing consequence of pregnancy. There may also be a need to take prenatal vitamins as well as food supplements like calcium supplements.

Exclusive breastfeeding and a high frequency of breastfeeding makes breastfeeding a more efficient pregnancy preventive method; a reduction in the frequency of breastfeeding on the other hand accelerates the return to fertility and increases the chances of pregnancy resulting from unprotected sex. If it is desired to avoid another pregnancy during the period of breastfeeding, contraceptive devices such as condoms and/or progesterone-only birth control pills (which offers less risk to nursing mothers) should be considered. Breastfeeding moms should consult their doctor or other healthcare professional.