Birth Control after Baby: 5 Options for a Breastfeeding Mom
Alright, so you have a baby—or a toddler perhaps—and you are definitely and absolutely NOT ready for another! I don’t blame you: raising a baby is tough job and raising two… well, that’s a totally different story. Maybe winning the Third World War is a lot easier and more reachable 😉
Doctors worldwide agree on the point that it is sensible to wait at least a year after your baby’s birth to get pregnant again. This time period gives your body the chance to heal properly, and helps avoid complications including miscarriage, premature delivery and underweight births. But how to wait? The answer is: adopt birth control methods.
For the last few years, moms have been relying on birth control methods to give themselves the necessary and much-needed gap between consecutive childbirths. But the questions have always been there: how to ensure birth control while breastfeeding? Which birth control option is safe for both mother and child? The fact is there are plenty of birth control methods that pose no harm to either the baby or nursing moms. You just have to decide what works for you and what to avoid.
Estrogen—a BIG NO!
Before deciding which birth control method to choose, it is always a good idea to know what NOT to choose. Estrogen is something nursing mothers need to avoid, not because it causes any direct harm to the baby but because it has an adverse effect on the milk supply. Estrogen is known to decrease the normal milk supply which can, consequently, affect your baby’s health. “Forms of birth control with estrogen can lower milk supply, so we try to avoid them in breastfeeding moms,” says Cristina Perez, M.D., ob-gyn at the Women’s Specialists of Houston at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.
That said, there are still plenty of methods to avoid getting pregnant while breastfeeding and still stay safe against any kind of undesirable side effects.
Breastfeeding—a Natural Birth Control Option
Big surprise, mommies! Breastfeeding itself is a natural birth control option. Yes, you’ve heard it right! Birth control and breastfeeding are directly related in that during the time a mother is breastfeeding, her body experiences a higher level of hormone prolactin which prevents ovulation and hence conception. However, there are certain conditions that must be fulfilled.
- You have to be within six months of childbirth.
- You have to breastfeed your baby exclusively. This means no supplement is used to feed your baby. In other words, your baby feeds on nothing except your milk.
- You must breastfeed your child every four hours during the day.
- The baby is breastfed every six hours at night (Yes, yes, I know it means lack of sleep for you, but you have to manage!)
- You have not gotten your period (menstruation) after the baby’s birth.
If you meet all this criteria, using breastfeeding as a birth control method is known to be 98% effective. However, doctors warn that ovulation can begin even if your post birth menstruation hasn’t returned. So yes, there’s still a risk. It is, therefore, wise to consider other birth control options as well.
Can you Take up Birth Control while Breastfeeding?
Moms are often seen wondering if taking up birth control is safe during breastfeeding. The answer is… YES, it is! There are various birth control methods that are one hundred percent safe and feasible, and are widely used by nursing moms. Some of these are discussed below, so read on!
The most recommended birth control method for nursing mothers is the use of intra-uterine devices or IUDs. An IUD is a small T-shaped device that a trained nurse or doctor injects into a woman’s uterus. IUDs are of various types: some are simply made of plastic while others are wrapped in a layer of copper; some contain hormones while others don’t. In any case, IUDs ensure the prevention of egg fertilization and implantation. It is estimated that IUDs are 99% effective in birth control.
It is possible you do not like the idea of having a device in your uterus (It’s scary, alright!). Don’t worry, though. We’ve got you covered. A birth control implant is just the right thing for you. Basically, an implant is a small flexible rod which is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The hormone progestin present in it causes the lining of the uterus to get thin preventing egg fertilization and hence conception. Implants can be inserted right after childbirth or during the first six months after childbirth. It’s all your choice!
If you are more inclined towards taking an oral contraceptive, birth control pills are what you need. However, traditional pills have a combination of progestin and estrogen hormones which may cause a drop in milk supply (I’ve already mentioned that estrogen causes decrease in milk supply). The safer option is the progesterone-only pill or mini-pill. As the name implies, these pills contain only progestin so they are a much safer option for breastfeeding mothers. However, it is necessary to take these pills every day and at the same time each day to make sure your hormone level remains steady.
If you are the type of woman who seeks a birth control method which is regular and easy, Depo shots are your best option. All you have to do is visit your doctor every 12 weeks for an injection and there… you are done; no need to worry about birth control for next three months. Easy and efficient! These shots also use progestin which prevents ovaries from releasing eggs. However, this method is effective only if you keep your regular appointments like a ritual. One missed appointment and the effectiveness of the method goes down the hill. Another thing that needs to be kept in mind is that Depo shots are long-lasting birth control method. If you want to have another baby and discontinue the method, it can still take up to one year for your fertility to return.
Barrier birth control methods
True to their names, barrier birth control methods use barriers to prevent the sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing the egg. What is good about these methods is that they don’t contain any hormone so there is no effect on milk supply. Condoms (both male and female), sponges, cervical caps and diaphragms all come under this category. They are easy, affordable and safe for nursing moms besides being the only methods to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. However, these barrier methods are not quite popular since they are inconvenient and less effective than other methods of birth control.
Birth control is necessary for you and your child’s health but try to adopt safe means. The methods mentioned above are only guidelines; they may or may not work for you. At the end of the equation, it is your own choice to make. However, know this: always seek the help of your doctor before adopting any of these methods on your own. Keep your health a priority and live your life to its fullest.
What is your opinion on this topic? Do you have any recommendation for fellow mothers? Spread the word in the comments section below.