Becoming a parent is an exciting and life-changing experience but it can also be confusing. For breastfeeding mothers, it can be incredibly confusing if they get pregnancy signs while nursing.
Many women are uncertain whether this is a sign of another pregnancy or just something that happens while breastfeeding.
In this article, we'll explore the common pregnancy signs that may occur while breastfeeding and how to determine whether you're pregnant or not.
It's important to know what to look for when determining if these symptoms are due to pregnancy or something else.
This is especially true if you are still nursing from a previous childbirth and have not yet returned to your normal menstrual cycle.
When we are trying to conceive, many women I know like to obsess over possible early signs of pregnancy.
I recently wrote a post about getting pregnant while breastfeeding, so I compiled a list of possible pregnancy signs while breastfeeding.
Another question I have often received lately is, "How did you know you were pregnant while breastfeeding?"
I have also heard from women who have not had their period return but still want to get pregnant or are wondering if they could be pregnant.
While it's tricky to know if you are pregnant, pregnancy can occur if your period has not returned.
I have gotten pregnant while breastfeeding twice and experienced some of these pregnancy symptoms while nursing.
For my fellow obsessives out there or anyone wondering about those early pregnancy symptoms, this is for you.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy while breastfeeding:
1. Increase in breast size
2. Changes in appetite
3. Nausea and vomiting
5. Sore breasts
6. Increased sensitivity to smells
7. Mood swings
8. Increased vaginal discharge
9. Frequent urination
10. Abdominal cramps or aches
12. Food cravings and aversions
13. Heightened sense of smell
I elaborate on these symptoms which I have personal experience with further below so keep reading.
Understanding The Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is vital to reproductive health and can indicate a woman's health. Regular natural change occurs in the female reproductive system and prepares it for pregnancy.
During each menstrual cycle, hormones that cause the uterus to thicken its lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy are released. The hormones also cause an egg to be released from one of the ovaries, which then travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus.
If the egg is not fertilized, it will eventually be shed along with the thickened uterine lining during menstruation.
Breastfeeding can affect a woman's menstrual cycle in different ways. For some women, breastfeeding suppresses ovulation and prevents menstruation entirely while they are breastfeeding exclusively.
Other women's periods may become irregular or unpredictable while nursing their babies.
Understanding how breastfeeding affects your body can help you make informed decisions about your reproductive health and family planning goals.
Early pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding
I know this is boring to hear, but most of the usual symptoms we usually experience when pregnant occurs when we are breastfeeding and pregnant too.
One notable difference is the absence or presence of a period as a pregnancy sign.
Since it is possible (but uncommon) to get pregnant before your period returns while breastfeeding, you cannot count on this as a sign.
Our cycles can be off or much different than we are used to when nursing. When my first baby was about one year old, I decided I wanted to try and get pregnant again. It was more challenging to predict ovulation than the first time, though.
My period had returned when she was around 9 months old, but it had yet to regulate. One month my cycle would be concise, and the next, it would be extended. I really thought I would not be able to get pregnant again until things normalized, but I did.
Here are some of the most common signs of pregnancy which occur when we are breastfeeding
For me personally, one of the very first signs I noticed the second time I was pregnant (and while still breastfeeding) was extreme fatigue when going about everyday activities.
I remember going for a walk with my husband and daughter, and I started to feel like I could barely make it home. I was very winded and out of breath.
I do not recall feeling that way the first time I was pregnant until a little later in the first trimester.
Pregnancy's physical and emotional toll can be brutal, especially for breastfeeding mothers. Common signs experienced during this time include fatigue and mood swings, which can be hard on the mother and the baby.
Fatigue is often one of the first symptoms experienced by a pregnant woman, as hormones rise and the body needs to rest more frequently.
Extreme or extra thirsty
I am always more thirsty when breastfeeding, especially when pregnant. I have heard from other breastfeeding and pregnant friends that this is common.
Sore breasts or nipples
While this can be a very early pregnancy symptom whether you are breastfeeding or not, it is definitely more noticeable to me when breastfeeding.
This is probably one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and a common one. While this symptom occurs even when not breastfeeding, I was much more aware of the pain since I was nursing.
Cramping and slight bleeding or spotting
I have gotten some cramps both times I was pregnant. Maybe it is implantation, but it feels like your period could be coming, and it is a widespread early pregnancy symptom.
Implantation bleeding is another sign of pregnancy. It can be hard to know if that spotting is your period getting ready to come or implantation bleeding.
Nausea can be an early pregnancy sign, although it usually comes later. I had it both times, but it was much worse when breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding was probably unrelated, but I thought I would add it here since it's a pregnancy symptom either way.
A drop in milk supply
This usually will only occur closer to the second trimester. Still, it can be an early pregnancy sign, and it will usually happen at some point when pregnant and breastfeeding.
Since a drop in milk supply is specific to nursing mothers, this is definitely a sign of pregnancy while breastfeeding.
If your milk supply drops unexpectedly and you think there is a chance of pregnancy, please take a test.
I have heard anecdotal stories of this being the first sign of pregnancy when a mother's period has not returned and there are no other pregnancy symptoms.
The drop in milk supply is the first tip-off of pregnancy for some breastfeeding women.
A change in milk taste
This also is typically closer to the second trimester, but the taste of your milk will probably change.
My daughter let me know when this occurred because, sadly, she did not like it anymore and abruptly weaned herself.
Once you are pregnant, your calorie needs will increase slightly, and they should already be up a bit from breastfeeding.
A positive pregnancy test
A positive pregnancy test is another common symptom of pregnancy while breastfeeding.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in a woman's urine. This hormone is produced when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, and the placenta begins to form.
While it's possible for a woman to experience morning sickness and other similar symptoms without being pregnant, a positive pregnancy test is generally considered the most reliable indicator that she has conceived.
A blood test will detect lower levels of hCG than an at-home urine test and can provide more accurate results.
The only way to know is to take a urine or blood pregnancy test.
Start with a home urine test and see your doctor for a blood test to confirm.
Another way to check for pregnancy is with an ultrasound, usually done a little later after a blood test.
The ultrasound can be used to check for a fetal heartbeat.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the risks associated with breastfeeding while pregnant?
Breastfeeding while pregnant carries certain risks.
It can lead to a decrease in breast milk production for the baby and possible nutritional deficiencies for both mother and child.
Additionally, it can make it more challenging to identify pregnancy signs and symptoms, potentially leading to a delayed diagnosis.
Women who are breastfeeding and suspect they may be pregnant should discuss their concerns with their healthcare provider.
Is it possible to feel fetal movement while breastfeeding?
It is possible to feel fetal movement while breastfeeding.
The sensation may be more intense while breastfeeding due to increased oxytocin and prolactin, which act as uterine relaxants and stimulate milk production.
Not all women will experience this sensation, so if you're unsure whether it's your baby moving or something else, it's best to consult your doctor for advice.
Are there any dietary restrictions for breastfeeding mothers who are pregnant?
While pregnant breastfeeding mothers may experience some diet restrictions, it is essential to remember that every pregnancy is different.
Depending on the individual's health and the stage of pregnancy, a doctor may advise avoiding certain foods or beverages.
Generally speaking, pregnant women should aim for a healthy, balanced diet and limit their intake of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
It's also essential for mothers to ensure they are getting enough nutrients to support both themselves and their growing fetus.
Should I continue breastfeeding after a positive pregnancy test?
Generally speaking, it is safe to continue breastfeeding while pregnant as long as you are healthy and your baby grows well. However, some changes in your milk supply may occur due to the hormones released during pregnancy, and depending on your baby's age, you may need to supplement.
My babies were over a year old when I got pregnant again, so this was not a concern.
It's also important to note that if you experience any severe morning sickness or other health concerns while pregnant, it's best to talk to your doctor before deciding if breastfeeding while pregnant is right for you.
Is there an increased risk of miscarriage while breastfeeding and pregnant?
In the past, some doctors believed miscarriage to be a risk of breastfeeding while pregnant. Things have changed significantly recent years, so I recommend only talking to a trusted doctor about this subject.
Please speak with a healthcare provider if you are concerned about the risks of breastfeeding while pregnant, as they can provide personalized advice based on your situation.
These signs and symptoms are fun to look for, but any of them can occur even if you are not pregnant.
When our period is getting ready to return for the first time postpartum, there can be some strange related symptoms.
It took me a few months for my period to get regular after each of my babies as well.
If you are hoping to get pregnant while breastfeeding, I recommend using ovulation tests to try and nail down ovulation better.
As far as wondering if you are pregnant or what the signs may be, I know it's hard when you are in the two-week wait and can't test yet.
It can be even more confusing if your period has not returned, but you think there is a chance you could be pregnant while breastfeeding.
Even while breastfeeding and without the return of a period, it is possible to get pregnant, although not as expected.
Some of these earliest symptoms can be noticed before it's time to test, so hopefully, this list helps you.
Otherwise, if you think you may be pregnant and breastfeeding, there is only one way to tell. Get out there and get yourself a test!
If you've been pregnant while breastfeeding, please let me know what your earliest signs for you were?
Trying to get pregnant while breastfeeding?
I have now gotten pregnant twice while breastfeeding. These pregnancies resulted in my second and third babies.
I decided to write more about trying to get pregnant while breastfeeding in this post, so check it out if you are inclined!