Postpartum Birth Control: What to Discuss with Your Doctor
September 29, 2020Many women wonder when it is safe to begin taking birth control after delivery. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, every woman who has recently given birth or is about to give birth should bring up the following talking points with her doctor.
When is “too soon” to start birth control after giving birth?
There is not necessarily a timeframe that is “too soon” to begin a birth control plan after giving birth. In fact, it is possible to become pregnant very soon after giving birth, so your doctor may recommend that you start birth control right away to avoid an unintended pregnancy.1 For most women, a progestin-only birth control pill (sometimes called a POP) is safe to begin taking immediately after having a baby. Combination birth control pills that have other hormones should be avoided for the first three weeks after giving birth.1
Other forms of birth control, such as an intrauterine device (IUD), injection, implant, patch, or vaginal ring, may have different recommendations for how soon you can use them after giving birth. An IUD, for example, can be inserted while you are still in the hospital after giving birth unless you have any signs of infection or severe bleeding.3 The patch or vaginal ring, on the other hand, should not be used until at least six weeks after giving birth.4
What is the impact of birth control on breastfeeding or breast milk?
Moms who choose to breastfeed should be aware of what they put into their bodies, as it can affect their health and the health and development of their babies. This is especially true when it comes to medication, including prescription birth control.
Taking combination pills can cause a small amount of hormones to be present in your breast milk. However, it’s not likely to affect your baby.1 Still, if it concerns you, speak to your doctor about switching to a progestin-only pill or a different birth control method.
Remember, most forms of birth control are considered safe for breastfeeding mothers to use, but you should always check with your doctor before beginning new birth control.
Using Breastfeeding as a Form of Birth Control
Breastfeeding can have an impact on a new mom’s body in many surprising ways. One such way is regulating reproductive hormones that cause ovulation. Breastfeeding can be used as a method of birth control, but only in a specific way. For breastfeeding to work as an effective method for birth control, you have to exclusively breastfeed (meaning you nurse every four hours during the day and every six hours at night, and feed your baby only breast milk.)5 When you exclusively breastfeed, your body stops ovulating. No ovulation means no egg is being released, and therefore you won’t be able to get pregnant.
This method is called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). Lactational refers to breast milk, and amenorrhea refers to not having a period. This method, when done correctly, can be about as effective as taking hormonal contraceptives (the pill).5 The LAM method won’t be effective if you feed your baby anything other than breast milk. Likewise, it won’t be effective if you use a breast pump. You must nurse your baby at the breast for the LAM method to work. It’s also worth mentioning that the LAM method is only effective for the first six months after delivery. Beyond that, the effectiveness diminishes drastically.5
Have a Plan Ahead of Time
To avoid having any gaps in protection, you should discuss a postpartum birth control plan with your doctor before you give birth. That will give you and your doctor time to discuss options and compare products.
Prenate® Vitamin Family
This post is sponsored by the Prenate® Vitamin Family, a line of prescription prenatal supplements designed to enhance preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition in women. Talk with your doctor about how taking a daily prescription prenatal or postnatal vitamin could help support a healthy pregnancy and postpartum wellness.