Many moms hear other moms talk and worry whether breastfeeding can cause a miscarriage. As scary as that may sound, only certain moms need to worry because very few pregnancies are at risk when breastfeeding.
There are many scenarios that lead some women to getting pregnant with baby number two while still breastfeeding baby number one. Some couples want to have their children close together so that they can grow up together and the mother can move beyond the childbearing years quickly. Other couples are taken by surprise when the second pregnancy occurs, especially if they believed the rumor that a woman cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding.
However this situation plays out for you, breastfeeding while pregnant is an option many women choose and have no issues. However, the safety of both babies and your own health should be considered.
If you don’t have any complications and your pregnancy isn’t expected to be high risk in any way, it’s usually safe for you to breastfeed at least through the first two trimesters. You still need to consider a few facts before making the final decision for your family, so read on.
Can It Cause a Miscarriage? The (Slight) Miscarriage Risk
According to the La Leche League, breastfeeding produces hormonal shifts inside a woman’s body, signaling for the uterus to contract and shrink back to it’s pre-pregnancy size. Some women also use a breast pump to stimulate labor when the baby is overdue because the stimulation leads to the release of oxytocin, which often results in contractions. This is why it’s believed that breastfeeding while pregnant may lead to a miscarriage.
Generally this risk is VERY, VERY, VERY small.
There is a extremely slight chance that breastfeeding causing contractions that may cause a miscarriage, but this is very unlikely to happen with healthy pregnancies in the first two trimesters. The amount of oxytocin released in response to breastfeeding is typically minimal, and the uterus isn’t ready to respond to that call to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size at these early stages. This is why so many women are able to successfully breastfeed while pregnant and are glad that they did!
The risk of going into labor is much higher as you get close to your due date. Your uterus is changing and is preparing to release the baby, so it may be more responsive to hormonal shifts. The contractions experienced as a result of those oxytocin releases may be stronger in the final trimester as well. This is why some women choose to take a break from breastfeeding in the final trimester….but you don’t NEED to!
Should You Wean?
If you have a normal pregnancy, we would generally say no! Keep breastfeeding even when the baby is born. Many moms tandem breastfeed their children and get a lot of benefits from it
However, keeping all of the available information in mind, there are a few reasons that you may decide to wean your baby instead:
- Your pregnancy is considered high risk.
- You have experienced signs of complications with your pregnancy.
- You have a history of miscarriage or pre-term labor and don’t want to take even the smallest risk.
- Breastfeeding and morning sickness or other early pregnancy discomforts are too overwhelming when experienced at once for you. (No judgement here! If it is too much for you, no one would blame you!)
It is important to know that weaning abruptly can cause both emotional and physical issues for both you, and your nursing child. That is not good for anyone or your pregnancy! So if you do decide to wean, don’t do it “cold turkey.” Take a little time. It will be better for ALL of you!
Many women have breastfed babies while pregnant (and then tandem nurse!) without any negative side effects or outcomes. Breastfeeding an older child and a newborn simultaneously can be rewarding and many women do this successfully as well. If you don’t have medical concerns, there is no reason to stop until you and your baby are ready.
- Breastfeeding While Pregnant: Symptoms, Safety and Tips
- Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding
- Tandem Nursing Successfully