Many women with whom we have helped to achieve pregnancy contact us later (especially those over 35). They are often still breastfeeding and would like more information on how to get pregnant again, while continuing to breastfeed. Many questions center on what herbs they could use while breastfeeding to help them achieve another healthy pregnancy. Unfortunately, many herbs we use for fertility are not recommended for use during lactation.
I will let you in on my favorite herbs for breastfeeding mamas that are safe for use and may help to prepare them for pregnancy, while also continuing to support a healthy milk supply.
Herbs to Help Breastfeeding Moms Prepare for Another Pregnancy
Important Note: We completely support breastfeeding and feel it is best for your body and mind to focus on breastfeeding and recovery from the postpartum period for the first 6-12 months of your baby’s life. Trying to get pregnant should come second, even if you feel time is not on your side due to age or reproductive health issues. Giving yourself plenty of time to recover physically, emotionally and mentally from your first pregnancy, labor and birth is going to give your subsequent pregnancies a better chance at being the healthiest they can be! Breastfeeding is the most nourishing and bonding experience for your baby – something that gives them the best start at life!
Trying to Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding? 7 Herbs to Help You Achieve Your Goal
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha root is classified as an adaptogen herb because it has been shown to improve the body’s response to stress of all kinds, it provides endocrine system support (hormonal system), specifically to the thyroid and adrenal glands and it helps to normalize the immune system. Ashwagandha is also used to help prevent anemia (iron deficiency), to improve libido, for uterine tone and for the quality of breast milk in lactating mothers. These are all important factors when trying to get pregnant, especially while breastfeeding. Discontinue use at first determination of pregnancy.
Chaste tree berry also known as Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus)
The berry of the Vitex bush is one of the best herbs for female fertility by helping to regulate hormonal health through pituitary gland support. It has been used for hundreds of years to regulate the menstrual cycle, bring on absent periods, and indirectly increase progesterone production during the luteal phase. Current information shows that Vitex is safe for use while breastfeeding. Some research shows that in higher doses Vitex inhibits prolactin production, which may decrease breast milk supply in some women. When given at a lower dose it appears to increase milk supply. It has also been shown as safe to take as a homeopathic remedy during lactation.
Discontinue use of Vitex in early pregnancy by weaning off over a two week period. In the case of low progesterone due to insufficient corpus luteal function, Vitex has been shown safe to continue through the first trimester of pregnancy. That being said, it would be best to only do so under the supervised guidance of a skilled herbalist or midwife trained in herbal medicine.
Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion leaves are deeply nourishing to the body, as they are high in vitamins and minerals. The leaves can be used to increase nutritional intake, they are supportive of liver health, which plays a key role in hormonal balance. This wild food/herb is safe for breastfeeding when taken as an infusion or eaten as a food. Dandelion leaf is safe for use in pregnancy.
Slight caution: Dandelion leaf can be diuretic, do not exceed safe dosage, as this may cause diarrhea and dehydration.
Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)
Evening primrose oil (EPO) is one of the easiest herbs to take, as it comes in capsule form. EPO aids in hormonal balance and uterine tone, both important aspects of achieving pregnancy. It is a rich source of the omega 6 fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA). LA is needed for prostaglandin E and GLA is needed for the synthesis of prostaglandin E. One of the many functions of Prostaglandins is to help control the regulation of hormones as well as control proper cell growth. Supplementation with EPO by breastfeeding mothers has been shown to increase the quality of breast milk by raising the essential fatty acid and total fat content of breast milk.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle leaf is one of the most nutrient dense plants around. It is high in a variety of vitamins and minerals specifically those that are necessary for thyroid health. It is very high in vitamin C, which is essential for proper iron utilization and tissue formation. It is also astringent, which can be helpful for those ladies with heavy menstrual bleeding. Nettle is supportive of liver function, aiding in hormonal balance. It has been used for hundreds of years to help keep up a mother’s milk supply, aiding healthy breast milk production. I find that Nettle is best consumed as an infusion and is safe to continue, as an infusion, throughout pregnancy.
Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)
If you aren’t already consuming this herb regularly, you should be! Raspberry leaf is an excellent way to get your uterus back in shape for pregnancy. It is one of the best uterine tonic herbs around! It is also very high in vitamins and minerals, which will help boost your nutrition prior to your next pregnancy, and it makes for rich breast milk.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for menstrual cycle regulation. It is a gentle adaptogen herb that encourages proper stress response, aids in hormonal balance and immune system function. It is an estrogen regulator and galactogogue. Galactogogues help increase and support breast milk production. Shatavari is also a great way to support cervical mucous production, aiding in vaginal dryness. Discontinue use in pregnancy.
Click here to learn about dosing and detailed benefits of Shatavari…
– Winston, David. Maimes, Steven. (2007). Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
– Romm, Aviva. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone Press.
– Mills, Simon; Bone, Kerry. (2005). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.