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Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding? The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

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Updated June 09, 2014

Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding? The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

Breastfeeding

Photo: Andersen Ross/Getty Images

Definition:

The Lactational Amenorrhea Method, or LAM, is also known as continuous breastfeeding. This is a natural option to prevent pregnancy after a woman has given birth. Many women find LAM to be appealing because it is safe, free, and effective. A woman should only rely upon continuous breastfeeding as a contraceptive method if it has been less than six months since you have given birth and your period has not yet returned.

How It Works:

Breastfeeding can be used as a contraceptive method when a woman engages in continuous breastfeeding after giving birth. In order for LAM to be effective, a woman must solely breastfeed her baby –- meaning that the baby does not drink anything besides breast milk. It works because the hormone required to stimulate milk production prevents the release of the hormone that triggers ovulation. Pregnancy cannot occur if an egg is not released.

Advantages of LAM:

Breastfeeding is a safe and effective birth control method. This method:
  • Has no side effects
  • Is convenient and free
  • Does not affect a woman's natural hormone balance
  • Requires no prescription or medical supervision
  • Is immediately effective
  • Reduces bleeding after delivery
  • Allows for greater sexual spontaneity as nothing needs to be put in place before intercourse (unlike a barrier method such as a condom - male or female, spermicide, sponge, cervical cap, or diaphragm)
Breastfeeding also offers many health advantages for a baby, including:
  • Increased body contact which leads to enhanced comfort for the infant and bonding between mother and child
  • Protection against the development of allergies and may protect against the development of asthma
  • Allows for the passage of some of the mother's antibodies which can protect the baby from certain infections
  • Providing the baby with the best nutrition available

  • For more information, please visit: About.com: Breastfeeding

Disadvantages of Breastfeeding:

  • No protection against sexually transmitted infections
  • Can only be relied on for six months after delivery
  • May lessen vaginal lubrication
  • Exclusive breastfeeding may be difficult to accomplish
  • Some report that breastfeeding may make the breast seem less sexual

Effectiveness of LAM:

Breastfeeding is up to 98% effective as a natural contraceptive for up to six months after childbirth if your period has not returned.
  • Typical use: 95% effective
  • Perfect use: 98% effective
This means that of every 100 women who use LAM, 5 will become pregnant within the first 6 months (with typical use) and less than 2 will become pregnant with perfect use.
  • Effectiveness rates only apply to women who are exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months postpartum.
In order to rely solely on LAM/breastfeeding as birth control, a woman should:
  • Only rely on this method for six months after delivery
  • Not substitute other foods for a breast milk meal
  • Feed her baby at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night
  • Has not had a period since she delivered her baby
So, for maximum effectiveness, a woman should not rely on LAM for more than 6 months or if she has had a period since giving birth. This means that even if her infant is exclusively breastfed, it is important that a woman chooses another birth control method by the time the baby is six months old.

Also, LAM is only effective if the woman feeds her baby at least 6 times a day with both breasts and does not substitute other foods for breast milk. This means that at least nine out of 10 feedings are breast feedings. Breastfeeding women who depend on LAM to prevent pregnancy should limit the number of supplemental feedings given to their babies to no more than 5% to 10% for the best contraceptive results.

Women should also feed their babies every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night as the most significant impact on fertility is achieved when feedings are spaced out in this manner.

STD Protection:

The Lactational Amenorrhea Method offers no protection against STDs. To decrease the risk of contracting an infection, women may wish to use a male condom or female condom when relying upon this method.

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