Breastfeeding has widely known health advantages. However, when nursing overlaps with pregnancy, a significant cultural tabu typically exists; some cultures even suggest weaning a child during pregnancy. When pregnancy overlaps with nursing, the concern of many mothers and practitioners are sudden abortion, premature birth or rapid reduction of nutrients. Various studies have shown that breastfeeding while pregnant is not an uncommon occurrence in many countries. One study conducted in rural Guatemala by Martorell, Haas, and Merchant 1990, showed that 50% of women breastfeed while pregnant. Another study conducted by Ramachandran,2002, stated that 30% of mothers in India conceived a child while breastfeeding. As of now, there is little to no statistical data on the consequences of breastfeeding while pregnant, and there are sparse rather than recent statistics. Thus, health professionals engaged in pregnancy monitoring and breastfeeding assistance must advise women of pregnancy breastfeeding and give scientific counseling.
So far, the effects of breastfeeding while pregnant have not fully been established. Although there are various studies conducted, they have mainly focused on isolated aspects of breastfeeding during pregnancy, such as the outcomes of nutrition, the result of premature birth or sudden abortion, the outcome of newborn babies such as weight and growth, or the outcome of the older child. In this case, a good picture of the effects of breastfeeding while pregnant is challenging to get. In more recent research by Yalcin, Demirtas and Yalcin, (2021) concluded that the characteristics depend on maternal factors, and cohort research is necessary to evaluate the impact of breastfeeding during pregnancy.
However, health outcomes for the mother and the older breastfed child are not clear. Research conducted by Fernandez, Barrios, Tricas, Benito (2017) reports five key findings:
- Breastfeeding during pregnency is associated with increased supplement intake. When pregnancy and breastfeeding overlap, fat reserve often decreases during the first and the second trimesters, but not during the third trimester or postpartum; a study suggests that the high intake of supplements in earlier trimesters can help increase the energy deficit experienced in the third trimester. A study concluded that nutritional supplements during the early stages of pregnancy are recommended to correct nutritional deficiencies.
- The study does not report any significant difference in the rate of premature birth concerning pregnant breastfeeding mothers and not pregnant breastfeeding mothers. They also indicate a higher frequency of sudden abortions in breastfeeding mothers, although the difference is insignificant.
- The birth weight of newborns in breastfeeding mothers is lower, although the difference is not significantly higher.
- Babies born to breastfeeding mothers gained less weight than those born to non-breastfeeding mothers in their first month.
- The study suggests that the abrupt weaning of children during gestation is associated with a reduction in growth rate for six to three months.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, breastfeeding while pregnant is generally considered safe, but weaning may be advisable if the mother carries twins, has bleeding or uterine pain, or has been advised to avoid sex during pregnancy. The association also emphasises that it is essential to contact a doctor to determine if weaning would be the best option for the mother in such cases.
In conclusion, breastfeeding during pregnancy is considered safe as long as you don’t feel some symptoms like;
- Uterine pain\bleeding
- Pregnancy-related health issues
- History of preterm birth
- Expecting multiples
- Strong contraction during breastfeeding
- Significant weight loss
- Asked to avoid sexual activity
- Back pain
In this case, if the pregnant woman feels one of these symptoms (mentioned above), she should immediately see her doctor to avoid any health risks for her and the child. During pregnancy breast soreness and nipple tenderness are common symptoms. The discomfort might increase during breastfeeding. Fatigue due to pregnancy might also be an issue. Your hormones cause these adverse effects during pregnancy. It is essential to look after yourself and eat well. At our hospital, we have a dietician and various experts who are more than happy to help you out at every step of your pregnancy. Make sure you are well hydrated and getting plenty of rest.
Merchant K, Martorell R, Haas J. Consequences for maternal nutrition of reproductive stress across consecutive pregnancies. J Nutr 1990;52(61):616– 20. 25.
Ramachandran P. Maternal nutrition—effect on fetal growth and outcome of pregnancy. Nutr Rev 2002;60(5 Pt. 2) S26–34 Available from: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/Doi/10.1301/00296640260130704/pdf.
López-Fernández, M. Barrios, J. Goberna-Tricas, J. Gómez-Benito, Breastfeeding during pregnancy: A systematic review, Women and Birth, Volume 30, Issue 6, 2017, Pages e292-e300,
ISSN 1871-5192, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2017.05.008. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871519217301105)
Siddika Songül Yalçın, Mehmet Semih Demirtaş, and Suzan Yalçın. Breastfeeding Medicine. Oct 2021.827-834.http://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2021.0073
https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-while-pregnant/. (Accessed on October 2021)
Molitoris, Joseph. “Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and the Risk of Miscarriage.” Perspectives on sexual and reproductive health 51.3 (2019): 153-163.