A lot of new moms have asked us whether it’s okay to take birth control pills (or use another method) while breastfeeding. It’s a great question, and we thought the best way to answer it would be to create a blog post outlining different options.
The good news is that it is safe (more on that below) and there are various methods that are effective and readily available to most moms.
Is it safe?
In short, yes, it is safe to use birth control while breastfeeding. That said, and we’ll cover this in the next section, certain methods may reduce your milk supply. Of course, this is where our Lilu Massage Bra comes in handy. Our bra helps moms pump more milk in each breastfeeding session, therefore maximizing your milk supply while minimizing any added energy (it’s hands-free AND 50% off right now)!
As Pandia Health notes, getting pregnant soon after giving birth can be emotionally and physically draining for many women. The World Health Organization recommends that mothers wait at least two years before becoming pregnant again, if possible. This gives your body enough time to heal physically, as well as have your hormones rebalance naturally.
What are my options?
There are several options available, a few of which we’ve covered below. For a full list, including sterilization, natural family planning, and the Depo-Provera shot among others, this Healthline article is helpful.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are more than 99-percent effective, and therefore the most effective form of birth control currently on the market. There are two different types available: hormonal and on-hormonal. Prescriptions from a doctor are required for both.
The way it works is that the progestin, which is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, thickens the cervical mucus and by doing this, sperm are unable to reach the uterus. Your periods may be lighter than normal, or may go away completely (as long as the IUD is inserted).
Unlike some other forms of birth control, you can have an IUD placed immediately after delivery. That said, always check with your doctor to make sure that is a good decision for your unique situation. Many doctors suggest waiting up to six weeks before doing so, in order for your body to heal from vaginal tears that occurred during birth.
As we mentioned above, traditional birth control pills may cause a reduction in your milk supply, and as a result, a shorter duration of breastfeeding. It’s not confirmed, but many experts deduce that estrogen is the root cause.
The mini-pill contains progestin only and it’s considered to be a safer option for breastfeeding moms. You’ll need a prescription from your doctor; although depending on what state you live in, you may find it over-the-counter.
You can start taking progestin-containing contraceptive pills between six and eight weeks after delivery. Most likely, you won’t have a period but may experience spotting or irregular bleeding during the initial adjustment period. If possible, try to take the pill at the same time of day, every day.
There are a couple kinds of barrier methods, including condoms, sponges, caps and diaphragms. Condoms are the only form of birth control that also help to protect against STIs. However, “typical” use of condoms, rather than the “perfect” scenario, lower the effectiveness to around 82-percent.
Sponges are made of polyurethane foam and you insert this into your vagina. It’s around 88-percent effective but less effective for women who have given birth. Cervical caps should be placed in the vagina up to six hours before intercourse, while diaphragms—silicone cups—can be inserted up to two hours before intercourse.
There’s a contraceptive implant called Nexplanon that is 99-percent effective in preventing pregnancy. This is only available by prescription, so make sure you visit your doctor to see if you are a good candidate.
Your doctor will insert the implant—it is a small, rod-shaped device roughly the size of a matchstick—under the skin on your upper arm. Once implanted, this method can help prevent pregnancy for up to four years.
Think of this as a last resort. If you think your other form of birth control has failed, it is safe to use the morning-after pill while breastfeeding. It is available over the counter and by prescription.
There are two types: one that contains a combination of estrogen and progestin and another than is progestin-only. The progestin-only pills are said to be 88-percent effective, while combination pills are only 75-percent effective.
What about breastfeeding itself? Isn’t that a form of birth control?
In the old days and in some third world countries, breastfeeding has been used as a form of birth control. However, with so many more effective forms available, it’s less recommended. If you do choose to use breastfeeding as your preferred form of birth control, it should be done very carefully. This method is also referred to as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).
As any new mom will agree, breastfeeding is very fatiguing on the body—25-percent of the body's energy; the brain only uses 20-percent by comparison—you’ll have to be extra diligent.
Pandia Health stresses that women using this form of birth control must breastfeed her infant exclusively (meaning NO other food/drinks); even then, it will only work for up to six months. One last thing to consider: it’s not known when exactly this method stops working, which puts moms at risk of becoming pregnant again.
So, how exactly does breastfeeding as birth control work? When a mother exclusively breastfeeds her infant, the hormones that are used to produce milk suppress ovulation. Therefore, this suppression prevents pregnancy. Exclusive breastfeeding means nursing at least every four hours by day, and at least every 6 hours at night.
We hope this article helped answer some common questions about using birth control while breastfeeding. Remember to check with your doctor before starting or changing treatment.
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