Is Breastfeeding A Natural Form Of Contraception?

Dr. Nupur Gupta, Gynecologist & Director, Well Woman Clinic, Gurugram, in Conversation with Healthwire

Breastfeeding a newborn is a blessing. It is a joy to see your baby suckle on unconditional love offered as breast milk. Being a source of complete nutrition for a baby, breast milk provides the necessary natural antibodies to strengthen the child’s immunity.

Bonding over breastfeeding is beautiful for a mother and baby. Moreover, experts claim that breastfeeding has benefits for the mother too along with the child.

Feeding the baby regularly allows the new mother to get in shape postpartum through proper lactation.

Moreover, breastfeeding can also help prevent conception.

Is breastfeeding a natural form of contraception? If yes, how does it reduce the chances of pregnancy?

Breastfeeding a baby helps prevent pregnancy during intercourse with a partner without using protection. This knowledge has been passed on from grandmothers to our mothers and so on.

Researchers inform that breastfeeding women have a reduced probability of conceiving as lactation prevents ovulation and delays the return of menstruation.

The absence of menstruation during breastfeeding is termed as Lactational amenorrhea. The lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM) in postpartum women provides natural contraception; as she is still not menstruating and is not feeding her baby with supplements, for up to 6 months after delivery.

(The Lancet, Volume 339, Issue 8787, 25 January 1992, Pages 227-230)

What is the right method/way of breastfeeding in order to ensure protection against pregnancy post-sex?

Lactation consultants recommend ensuring 98-99.5% protection and avoiding conception using breastfeeding or LAM technique but it is vital that the infant is exclusively breastfed by the mother for up to 6 months of age without any gaps or intervals in feeding, menstrual periods have not yet returned and newborn is breastfeeding both day and night, and gets nothing but breast milk.

What is ‘exclusive breastfeeding’? Can it be a natural form of contraception? If yes, why?

Exclusive breastfeeding is referred to as providing the infant breast milk through natural suckling or expression from birth to 6 months of age. No other supplemental feed including water is offered to the baby from 0-6 months as breast milk is a complete meal for the infant.

Breastfeeding the baby on demand and regular intervals releases high levels of prolactin which is a milk-producing hormone, in the mother’s body. The high levels of prolactin interfere with the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian chain, preventing estrogen secretion and inhibiting ovulation. This can be observed to be a natural conception to ensure the health and safety of the mother and avoid unplanned pregnancies.

How long can breastfeeding be used as a form of contraception?

According to lactation experts, breastfeeding a baby exclusively for 6 months without offering any supplemental feed delays pregnancy till that duration. LAM birth control method can be used as a natural contraception technique until that time. As soon as menstruation resumes, which is 6 months post-delivery for most women as a child is weaned off gradually from lactation, this contraceptive technique will be ineffective. They need to use an additional method as well.

What are the precautions or warning signs a woman must keep in mind if she is counting on breastfeeding for protection against pregnancy?

Breastfeeding is the baby’s natural and safest food. A mother feeds her baby to provide complete nutrition and strengthen the gut. The A-One perk of breastfeeding is that it provides natural contraception to new mothers for 6 months against unplanned pregnancies.

Yet, experts warn new mothers using the LAM technique for avoiding conception to ensure that their baby is exclusively breastfed.

To conclude, the chance of getting pregnant is lower while breastfeeding; however, women can still get pregnant.

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