While some breastfeeding mothers can get their menstrual cycle back relatively soon, many can go without a period for a few months or even pass a year after birth. Exclusively breastfeeding can hold off your menstrual cycle for an extended period. However, breastfeeding is not a reliable source of birth control because ovulation can take place at any time.
Tracking signs of ovulation while breastfeeding is an important thing to do unless you desire to get pregnant quickly. Many breastfeeding mothers fall pregnant on accident while breastfeeding because they didn’t expect their cycle at that time. In fact, for some mothers, any breastfeeding is birth control and can make getting pregnant difficult. However, you never know what category you will fall.
Breastfeeding can directly hold off ovulation because it triggers hormones to suppress it. Each time your baby suckles, it sends signals to stop the hormone. In general, your baby should be nursing at least every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night to continue the suppression of this hormone. This leads to Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) which is the time that your menses have not returned, and you are fully breastfeeding your baby who is less than six months old.
Signs of Ovulation While Breastfeeding.
Before you begin to look for signs of ovulation, you have to start charting. This seems like a complicated process, but it is relatively easy once you get the hang of it.
While charting, you have to keep track of your basal body temperature (BBT), cervical position, cervical texture, and cervical mucus. You should also keep track of other signs or symptoms such as cramping or nausea; each woman experiences ovulation differently. You may be wondering why you need to chart.
It is hard to keep track in your head of all your different signs. Typically, while you are breastfeeding, your signs are going to stay relatively the same. However, as ovulation approaches, there are some telltale signs you will be able to identify as abnormal. This way, you can avoid intimacy with your spouse if you don’t desire pregnancy.
1. Three Days of Increased Basal Body Temperature
First, you will want to track your BBT. However, this can be difficult if your baby is not sleeping through the night or at least having some long stretches of sleep. Inconsistent sleep affects your BBT and gives an inaccurate reading.
As your track your BBT, you will notice the temperature will not vary too greatly. However, once you ovulate, you are going to see a rapid increase of your BBT. It is referred to as a spike because you can jump nearly a full degree. However, the average increase is around .2 to .3 degrees at first.
Tracking your BBT will not tell you ovulation is taking place, but it will alert you that ovulation for sure has happened. It is still a good idea to track your BBT because breastfeeding can cause odd symptoms. Without this knowledge, you cannot guarantee ovulation took place until your period shows up. That is a surprise no one likes to experience, especially if you aren’t prepared!
2. Higher and Softer Cervix
This can seem like an uncomfortable topic, but it is important to understand your cervix. The cervix is an underappreciated part of our bodies, and it can give us signs about when we are going to ovulate when our menstrual cycle is going to begin, and even let us know if we are pregnant.
Checking your cervix is simple. Start with washing your hands because you don’t want to introduce any foreign bacteria that could lead to an infection. Sitting on the toilet is the best place to check your cervix and also the easiest way to reach. Using one or two fingers, gently insert until you feel your cervix. It has a tube-like structure with a hole or indent in the middle.
An ovulating cervix has three distinct features: high, soft and open. Sometimes, your cervix could be difficult to reach during ovulation, which is a good sign that ovulation is taking place or is near. If you can reach your cervix, you need to determine the texture. Once you have checked a few times, you will notice a distinct difference. It will be very soft and mushy while you ovulate.
Lastly, it will be more opened than usual. It is important to remember that, if you dilated during birth, your cervix would always feel slightly open in comparison to before birth. Ovulation makes your cervix open even wider than normal to allow easy access for the semen to travel to the egg.
3. Changes in Cervical Mucus
Cervical mucus is your one, surefire way to tell that ovulation is taking place while breastfeeding. When you are not pregnant, your cervical mucus may be creamy or sticky, which is very normal. In fact, some women have little to no cervical mucus because of the hormones released during breastfeeding, and this is why some women experience dryness during sexual intercourse.
As ovulation nears, your cervical mucus is going to make some drastic changes. First, you may notice a wet, watery like cervical mucus beginning to form. This is normal, but it isn’t as fertile as what comes next. However, semen may be able to live in watery cervical mucus so have sexual intercourse with care.
The most important mucus to look for us called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM). Some women experience an abundance, while some breastfeeding mothers only find small bits.
What matters the most is the presence of EWCM. Semen can live for up to three days in EWCM, meaning you could have sexual intercourse three days before ovulation and still get pregnant if you have EWCM.
4. Your Unique Signs of Ovulation
All women are different and have different signs of approaching ovulation. If you feel odd or different at all, it is a good idea to list these symptoms so you can pinpoint your evidence of ovulation. Here are some common ones to notice
- Heightened sense of smell or taste (commonly confused with pregnancy sign)
- Light spotting
- Cramping on one or both sides of uterus
- Breast tenderness
- Increased sex drive
- Abdominal bloating
Does Exclusively Breastfeeding Actually Work as Birth Control?
This is an important question to answer because many breastfeeding mothers believe the myth that breastfeeding is a valid form of birth control. Ecological breastfeeding mothers experience an average return of their cycle to be 14.6 months. It is a great form of birth control if you follow the guidelines of ecological breastfeeding, which are:
- Keeping baby close – day and at night
- Breastfeeding based on cues, not a schedule
- Comfort nursing
- Breastfeeding at night in a lying down position
- Avoiding bottles and pacifiers
If you follow these guidelines and your baby is less than six months old, exclusively breastfeeding your baby can be a 98-99.5% effective form of birth control. Remember, any introduction of solids or baby sleeping through the night can quickly send the return of your menstrual cycle. It is fundamental to remember the longer and more often your child is away from the breast, the sooner you are likely to ovulate.
As you watch for signs of ovulation while breastfeeding, there are a few things you should remember to watch.
- First, charting your basal body temperature can give you clear evidence about when ovulation has taken place.
- Second, daily checking your cervical position can let you know if your cervix is high, soft and open, a clear sign of ovulation.
- Last, once you have spotted egg white cervical mucus, you know ovulation is about to take place.
Watching for signs of ovulation isn’t a difficult task and only takes a few moments each day. It is a great practice if you wish to avoid pregnancy.
Do you have any questions? If so, please post them in the comments. Don’t forget to share with your friends who may be breastfeeding.