Only direct research can definitively tell us whether breastfeeding can elevate the risk of preterm labor or miscarriage in any woman. But as you can see, the available research gives us valid reasons to doubt that breastfeeding could trigger labor before the body has already begun to prepare for it. With increasing first-hand experience among health professionals, many well-respected sources are asserting that breastfeeding is safe in healthy pregnancies, including Ina May Gaskin, LM,4 the American Academy of Family Physicians,11 and Ruth Lawrence, MD, in Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession.12
Complicated pregnancies always call for more complicated decisions, but weaning can still be avoided in many cases. I have corresponded with many mothers who breastfed through high risk pregnancies, even threatened preterm labor, and have given birth to healthy term babies.4 Sometimes reduced nursing or weaning seems to be for the best; no two mothers' choices are the same.
You may wish to work with your medical care provider to draw up a plan for moving forward with your eyes open. As in any pregnancy, you should be on the look out for signs of preterm labor. Any mother who is experiencing contractions that concern her should end the breastfeeding session and see if the contractions stop as well. Some medical caregivers judge that it is helpful to observe the effects of breastfeeding on uterine contractility, fetal heart rate, or the state of the cervix.
In closing, I would like to share a bit of my own story. When I became pregnant with my second child, I worried that breastfeeding might interfere with my healthy pregnancy. My midwives Anne Hirsch, LM, and CharLynn Daughtry, LM, CPM, were accustomed to supporting breastfeeding mothers. They provided me with the support I needed to hold onto my breastfeeding relationship with my two-year-old Nora Jade. What a difference it made. After I gave birth to Miles at home, my daughter rushed in to meet her brother, and she immediately wanted to nurse with him. "That 'na-na' is for brother," she said. As they nursed and gazed at each other wide-eyed across my chest, I wrapped an arm around each of them, marveling at my body's powers to provide.
When deciding about the health of breastfeeding during pregnancy, each mother must sort through her options, her feelings, and what her own body is telling her. Trust yourself to make the best choice for your family.