As a teenager, my menstrual cycle was wildly unpredictable. I could get my period anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks after my last period started. That’s a six-week window of uncertainty with only eight days that were guaranteed free of bloody underwear.
This was too much for my anxiety, so I learned more about fertility. In the end, I got that six-week window down to ten hours. How? By tracking my fertility.
When I saw signs that ovulation was happening, I knew my period was coming soon. When I was 14–22, it took about 7.3 days after I saw peak egg white cervical mucous for my period to start. Finally, no more stained underwear!
Luteal phases are generally static in individual women, though the point at which we ovulate can vary from month to month. That’s what made this possible.
This pattern stopped around the time I got pregnant. My luteal phase was a bit longer after that point. And, of course, it didn’t happen at all while I was experiencing lactational amenorrhea. I wasn’t ovulating then, and my period didn’t happen while I was breastfeeding as a consequence of lactation suppressing ovulation for me.
Once I saw that egg white mucous, however, I knew my period was on the way and my fertility was back. Fertility has signs that can be observed in healthy women who aren’t using hormonal forms of birth control. With the proper education, women are able to look for these signs and get a good idea of when they are and aren’t fertile.
Do ladies become pregnant while breastfeeding
[Egg white cervical mucous photo from site in footer
. This consistency of cervical mucous only occurs very close to the day of ovulation, though there are look-alikes and very similar states to learn about.]
Most women who breastfeed their children every few hours will experience some degree of lactational amenorrhea. Women experiencing lactational amenorrhea are not ovulating and cannot become pregnant. As such, they won’t experience egg white cervical mucous either.
However, most modern women don’t experience lactational amenorrhea, and those who do usually don’t experience it for very long. The reason? Modern child-rearing techniques and modern work expectations of women.
Lactational amenorrhea is caused by hormonal changes that occur when an actual baby is taking milk directly from the breast every few hours. When this doesn’t happen, your body assumes you miscarried and stops bothering to produce milk.
When women have to pump to feed their babies, those babies do not nurse as often, and lactational amenorrhea is compromised. This also happens when women leave babies to sleep through the night or they let someone else handle those feedings using formula or pumped milk.
For most women, breastfeeding has to happen every few hours for your body to keep producing those hormones, and those hormones are what keep your fertility at bay when you’re breastfeeding. It’s also what ensures adequate nutrition using breastmilk alone.
Obviously, there are outliers. Some women who breastfeed exclusively, with no pumping, will dry up and regain fertility early. Some women who pump most meals for their babies will continue overproducing and stay infertile for a while. Bodies are weird and they don’t always work right. But when it’s working right, putting a child to the breast every few hours, night and day, can prevent ovulation for years.
And when women ovulate again, when they regain fertility, the same signs of ovulation seen in ordinary women will appear for the newly fertile mother.
Whenever this happens, however soon or long after giving birth, she can become pregnant—even if she’s still breastfeeding.
So yes, women do become pregnant while breastfeeding. But there are reasons for it and it can, to some degree, be predicted.