Nursing While Pregnant – What are the Risks?

Okay, I promised an update on this topic…

My reasons for continuing to nurse Gavin throughout the pregnancy and for tandem nursing (nursing an older child while nursing a baby):

  • allows Gavin to bond with me without taxing me too much (it’s definitely a lot less tiring to lie in bed and cuddle him than to chase him around the house and play whatever games he fancies)
  • helps Gavin to better transition the new arrival of a baby – being able to continue nursing helps him feel secure in his relationship with me rather than feeling that he has been displaced by the new baby which may cause resentment towards the baby

My concerns about continuing to nurse Gavin during the pregnancy:

  • the risk that the uterine contractions might lead to premature labour as highlighted by the doctor

KellyMom has always been a great source of information for nursing mothers, and this is what they have to say about the safety of nursing during pregnancy:

Is it safe to nurse during pregnancy?

Yes, in most cases. At this time no medical study has been done on the safety of breastfeeding during pregnancy so it is impossible to list any definitive contraindications. If you are having a complicated pregnancy, such as lost weight, bleeding, or signs of preterm labor, you should problem-solve your individual situation with your caregiver.”

Regarding uterine contractions:

“Although uterine contractions are experienced during breastfeeding, they are a normal part of pregnancy. Similar contractions often occur during sexual intercourse, which many couples continue throughout pregnancy.”

During pregnancy, several things need to be noted:

  • there is less oxytocin produced during nipple stimulation
  • the uterus does not respond to oxytocin the way it does when the mother is at term
  • a lack of oxytocin receptor sites (uterine cells that detect the presence of oxytocin) in the uterus up until 38 weeks of pregnancy
  • lack of special proteins which “down regulate” the uterus so it remains insensitive even when there are a lot of oxytocin receptor sites present

So the uterus is very well protected during pregnancy and guards well against oxytocin that may be released during nursing.

What about miscarriage and preterm labor risks?

“A recent review of research on the pregnant uterus reveals that there is actually no theoretical basis for the common concern that breastfeeding can lead to miscarriage or preterm labor in healthy pregnancies. Instead the uterus has many safeguards preventing a strong reaction to the oxytocin that breastfeeding releases.”

What do the Experts have to say?

Lesley Regan, PhD, MD, who is the head of the Miscarriage Clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, finds it surprising to hear issues related to miscarriage to be reasons for weaning.  “Once a pregnancy is clinically detectable, breastfeeding should pose no added risk of pregnancy loss. There isn’t any data suggesting a link between breastfeeding and miscarriage, and I see no plausible reason for there to be a link.”

More information on the safety of breastfeeding during pregnancy.

I’ve also been reading the comments of mothers who have nursed throughout pregnancy and there appears to be no issue here.  Some have even been high risk pregnancies and the mothers have managed to continue nursing throughout the pregnancy without consequence (although whether you should in such a case is really a matter between yourself and your obstetrician).

Will I continue to nurse Gavin throughout the pregnancy?  Yes, I think I will (unless he chooses to wean or if I succumb to the pain of it).

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Nursing While Pregnant – What are the Risks?

  1. Hah. I have been nursing every single day and night and is the baby here yet? No… she’s still taking her time. Sure there are 4 days more but you’d think the nursing (esp this month!!!) would get her out earlier. Sigh…

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  2. Well, if my experience with Gavin is anything to go by, I doubt nursing through pregnancy is going to have any effect on this baby either. We had to induce Gavin and even after induction, he took nearly two days to get out! He definitely didn’t want to leave the womb!

    Like

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