Is breastfeeding truly effective at preventing pregnancy?
Having a child is a thrilling and life-changing experience. However, caring for newborns takes a lot of time and effort, especially if you're juggling family and work. Even the happiest and most proud parents may prefer to wait a while after the birth of one child before welcoming another.
It's possible you've heard that if you're breastfeeding, you won't be able to conceive. But that isn't the whole tale. Several factors influence how effective nursing is as a birth control method.
What to think about if you want to use breastfeeding as a birth control method
Experts advise waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies. This gives the uterus time to recover and is safer for both the mother and the baby.
There are numerous birth control methods available. Some alter the hormone cycles that control menstruation and pregnancy. Nonhormonal alternatives frequently inhibit or decrease sperm production, or prevent sperm and egg from contacting each other.
Breastfeeding is a natural method of birth prevention that many individuals find appealing. It has been shown in research to be a successful strategy during the months when a mother is frequently breastfeeding and an infant is eating exclusively breast milk—no formula, baby meals, or other foods.
This procedure is referred to medically as the lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM. Lactation is when a woman breastfeeds, and amenorrhea is when she doesn't have a period or a regular menstrual cycle.
How does this technique operate?
Breastfeeding a kid on a regular basis can prevent ovulation, the process by which an egg is released from the ovary. Ovulation is required for conception.
To avoid pregnancy successfully, all of the following rules must be followed:
- Your infant is less than six months old and exclusively breastfed (no formula or food).
- You breastfeed at least four times a day and six times a night.
- You are currently without periods (amenorrhea).
What is the efficacy of LAM (lactational amenorrhea method)?
A hormone-based method like the birth control pill can be just as effective when used properly, as LAM has been shown to be when used properly. It is 98 per cent effective for the first six months after birth. This means that if the guidelines are followed correctly, only two out of every hundred people will become pregnant while using this method. Otherwise, pregnancy is far more likely. Your medical team can assist you in determining whether this is the best method of birth control for you right now and can explain further options.
What are the benefits of this method?
This method of contraception is completely natural and poses no health risks or adverse effects. In addition, it is free and doesn't need an appointment or procedure with a doctor.
What are the drawbacks to this technique?
- It is not feasible or practical for everyone.
- You must be capable of and willing to breastfeed your newborn exclusively. Giving your baby formula or other food reduces the effectiveness of this type of birth control. As a side note, it isn't clear if pumping breast milk has the same effect on ovulation as breastfeeding.
- It is only temporary. Pediatricians recommend that babies begin eating solid foods at the age of six months. Additionally, babies will begin sleeping for extended periods of time at night.
- If you experience your period while using this approach, you are most likely ovulating again. People who don't use birth control may get pregnant if they don't change their methods of birth control.
If you choose to use LAM, be prepared to change birth control methods by the time your kid is six months old, or sooner if you find it impractical.
Is this technique right for you?
This strategy may be appropriate in the short term if you are willing and able to
- breastfeed your infant entirely for the first six months following birth—no formula or other foods should be added.
- At a minimum of every four hours throughout the day and every six hours at night, nurse.
This approach is not effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), such as chlamydia or HIV. It is not a smart choice for anyone who intends to use breast milk and formula in combination, or who has a health concern or takes medications that could harm a baby if spread or transferred through breast milk.
Choosing the best method of contraception for you
Birth control should be tailored to your lifestyle and health needs. Certain individuals, for example, desire to avoid procedures that contain any hormones. Individuals with a history of blood clots or hypertension should avoid estrogen-containing procedures. Busy people may benefit from a long-term method of birth control that is set it and forget it,' such as an IUD or implant. In addition, anyone who wants to protect themselves from STIs should think about using condoms with any method of birth control they choose.
Inform your midwife, doctor, or other members of your medical team of your preferences and needs. They can clarify your alternatives and assist you in making the best choice for you.
For additional information on available alternatives, contact the Harvard Health Birth Control Center.