Another pregnancy is far from the minds of most breastfeeding women, especially those with newborns. While exclusive breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy, it is not 100 percent effective and becomes less effective as your baby gets older. Exploring postpartum birth control options helps you choose the safest option for you while nursing your baby.
For the first six months, exclusive breastfeeding and not yet having your first postpartum period gives 98 percent effectiveness as a form of birth control, according to the Dr. Spock website. When your period returns or you stop exclusively breastfeeding, the effectiveness goes down. Using other forms of birth control prevents an unexpected pregnancy, but some contraceptives might interfere with milk production. Hormonal contraceptives can also get into the milk supply.
Barrier methods physically block the sperm from reaching the egg, preventing fertilization. Condoms and diaphragms are the common barrier options. These methods appeal to many breastfeeding mothers because they avoid the potential introduction of hormones into the breast milk supply. You also avoid the potential for decreased milk supply, and you only use them when you engage in sexual activity, eliminating the constant exposure to contraceptives for you and your baby.
Birth control pills, contraceptive shots and IUDs are other common birth control methods. The regular birth control pill contains both progestin and estrogen. The estrogen can affect breast milk, so it is usually not recommended for the first six months, according to the Dr. Spock website. The mini-pill uses only progestin, often making it the preferred pill option for breastfeeding women. The effectiveness is lower than regular birth control pills. A progestin-only contraceptive shot might also be an option for breastfeeding mothers.
Your personal physician is one of the best resources when choosing a birth control method. He can offer insight based on your personal health history and can address any specific concerns you have about various birth control methods. If you aren’t comfortable potentially exposing your baby to the hormones from certain birth control methods, stick with barrier methods. A tubal ligation is also an option for permanent birth control, but deciding on this right after giving birth may cause you to second guess your decision later. Make sure you want to go that route before pursuing a permanent birth control option.
If you choose a hormonal form of birth control, you should watch for signs of side effects. A decrease in your milk supply or problems with your baby’s weight gain could be partially caused by the birth control, according to Kelly Mom. Contact your physician if you have concerns about the birth control affecting breastfeeding.