Women who use IVF to try to fall pregnant may be worried about:
whether breastfeeding may affect their chances of falling pregnant
their ability to breastfeed after IVF
the potential effects of fertility drugs transferred via breastmilk on their child’s health or the mother’s milk supply.
It is well recognised that breastfeeding can have a contraceptive effect. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is listed by the World Health Organization as an accepted and effective method of contraception. Studies have shown that LAM is a 98% effective method of contraception when a mother’s menstrual cycle has not resumed, her baby is less than 6 months of age and is exclusively breastfeeding. Therefore, a woman’s fertility may be inhibited while her baby continues to breastfeed frequently.
However, breastfeeding mothers resume menstruating at different times after giving birth. For some breastfeeding mothers, their period returns as early as a few weeks after giving birth and for others it can take years. Therefore, it is important not to generalise about whether breastfeeding must cease before IVF begins. Some women having IVF may have resumed regular ovulation and menstruation while continuing to breastfeed. For these women, there may be little or no benefit of weaning before starting IVF in terms of the chances of falling pregnant.
Some women may be concerned about fertility drugs used in IVF. Will the drugs affect her supply? Will they enter her breastmilk and impact on the child’s health in any way? Any potential risk of using any drug while breastfeeding needs to be weighed up (in consultation with a health professional) against the nutritional, immunological and emotional importance of breastfeeding.
If any breastfeeding problems occur after IVF, they may be related to the reasons for using IVF in the first place. For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome may be the reason IVF is needed and can also be associated with a low milk supply in some cases.
IVF is also associated with an increased risk of caesarean section, premature delivery, multiple births and reduced confidence in mothering. These situations may create challenges to get breastfeeding going, but do not rule out achieving ‘successful’ breastfeeding.
Weaning before undergoing IVF is a personal decision. Each woman, depending on her individual situation, can and needs to decide whether she prefers to continue breastfeeding, or to wean, or to delay starting IVF until both she and her child are ready to wean
Elliott J 2008, Breastfeeding through IVF treatment: A case study, Topics in Breastfeeding, Australian Breastfeeding Association
© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2014
The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care providers.