Many women experience reduced fertility while breastfeeding due to lactation amenorrhea, which is natural postpartum infertility that occurs during full-time breastfeeding, states the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although this infertility during this time is common, it's not a guaranteed form of birth control. Because you can still get pregnant, watch for typical pregnancy symptoms even if you're breastfeeding.
Missing a period is often one of the first signs of pregnancy. However, with breastfeeding, it's common for women to experience amenorrhea, or no menstruation. For this reason, a missed period will likely not alert a woman to the possibility of pregnancy. But with careful observation, it may be possible to recognize returning fertility prior to ovulation and conception. An increase in cervical fluid can indicate that the body is preparing to ovulate, according to information published by Marquette University. This event may coincide with less frequent breastfeeding or baby sleeping through the night. If fertility symptoms occur, watch for pregnancy symptoms within about two weeks of the increased cervical fluid.
You may notice soreness in your nipples and breasts as an early pregnancy symptom, warns physician Roger W. Harms, writing for the Mayo Clinic website. This pain may become worse when you breastfeed, creating difficulties for some women.
Changes in Breast Milk
A new pregnancy may cause some changes in the flavor and consistency of breast milk, states Harms. It's common for babies to notice this change in taste, and some little ones opt to wean because they don't like it. Some mothers also experience a decrease in milk supply as a pregnancy progresses. Although these changes may occur, the nutritional content of breast milk does not change or diminish during pregnancy.
Continuing to Breastfeed
Continuing to breastfeed through a subsequent pregnancy is generally considered safe, although you should confirm this with your physician. Fatigue is common during pregnancy, and it may become more pronounced if you continue to breastfeed due to the increased physical demands on your body. Listen to your body and rest when you feel tired. Increase your caloric intake by an extra 500 calories if your breastfeeding child is eating other foods in addition to breast milk, advises the American Pregnancy Association. Your caloric needs increase by 600 calories each day if your child is nursing full time. You may also experience uterine contractions as a result of breastfeeding. Generally, these contractions should not be problematic, states pediatrician William Sears, writing for the Parenting website. Typically, these contractions do not begin until after week 24 of a pregnancy. Check with your physician about the safety of continuing to breastfeed if you have concerns.