How Breastfeeding Affects Your Cervical Mucus
Whether you’re trying to conceive again or avoiding it, breastfeeding can change your mucus a bit.
Just because you’re breastfeeding a baby doesn't mean you're no longer paying attention to the signs of fertility. Whether you’re ready to try for another baby, or hoping to avoid pregnancy, you may be curious how breastfeeding affects your cervical mucus.
When I was trying to conceive, I know that I became the Agent Jethro Gibbs of my cervical mucus. No stone went unturned, no slippery cervix unchecked. I could probably sketch you a chart from memory using nothing more than whatever crayons my children haven't broken and a scrap of paper. However, that was during my time trying to get pregnant. When I was breastfeeding? Yeah, nope. Didn't care. The only thing I cared about regarding my vagina was when she could get waxed and when she could see action again after giving birth. (Both of these turned out also to be of very little consequence when I stopped sleeping and started mom-ing around the clock.) But that doesn't mean it didn't change.
How breastfeeding alters cervical mucus
Breastfeeding typically shifts the pattern of cervical mucus you might have been accustomed to before you got pregnant, says Jada Shapiro, a certified lactation counselor, birth and postpartum doula. Most women who are in their ‘fertile window’ have cervical mucus that is similar to the consistency of egg whites: stretchy, thin, and elastic. That telltale consistency may be different if you’re breastfeeding though. “During lactation, high levels of the hormone prolactin, which help make the milk, suppress ovulation hormones and thus many lactating parents who are nursing exclusively — meaning every single feed is from your body — will have dryer or less cervical mucus,” Shapiro explains.
This is backed up by the Journal of Human Lactation, which states that when a woman is breastfeeding, the lack of ovulation diminishes the amount and quality of cervical mucus until her cycle returns. The cycle typically returns after the baby begins feeding less frequently — between four and six months postpartum — and it may take a month or more beyond that for your fertility to return, and your cycle to steady and become more regular.
Breastfeeding & fertility: Yes, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding
Take note — if you notice that you’re having cervical mucus that indicates fertility, but your cycle hasn't returned, you might be ovulating and can get pregnant. People who are exclusively breastfeeding have a low chance of getting pregnant, but it is not a zero chance, explains Andrea Tran, an international board-certified lactation consultant and registered nurse. “Monitoring cervical mucus would help a mother know that she is fertile because of the changes that occur to the mucus itself,” Tran adds.
And of course, if you are noticing a real change in your discharge outside of what is normal for you pre-children or postpartum, call your OB-GYN or health care provider to eliminate the possibility of infection or some other cause. Otherwise, it should go back to normal in time.
Jada Shapiro, founder of boober
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