birth control while breastfeeding

Your new gorgeous baby is already here - and it sure is a lot of work! But can you effectively prevent a pregnancy while breastfeeding your baby?

Here you have a detailed and explained list of all your choices of birth control while breastfeeding!

Nowadays, you can choose among many methods of birth control while breastfeeding. From the natural ones, such as the very same breastfeeding, to IUDs or pills specially adapted for breastfeeding mums. With these, you will be able to prevent getting pregnant again and know for sure that your baby is getting pure breast milk – perfectly healthy and unadulterated.

Natural birth control while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is an effective birth control method itself. Your baby’s suction increases the production of the prolactin hormone, which prevents ovulation. It is a very efficient method, but in order for it to be successful you’ll need to meet some criteria.

Breastfeeding as birth control only works during the first six months after childbirth, if the new mummy’s period isn’t back yet and if she is breastfeeding her baby exclusively: no formula at all, not even as a supplement! You will also need to make sure that you’re feeding your baby on demand, with both breasts, and from 6 to 10 times a day. Let’s take a closer look at its main advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • It’s 98% effective if the mum meets the criteria.
  • It’s completely natural, healthy and free from side effects.
  • It’s incredibly easy! The only thing you need to do is breastfeed your baby on demand.

Disadvantages:

  • You can only trust it for the first six months.
  • Doctors warn that some women may start ovulating before getting their first post-baby period, which leaves a small space for uncertainty.
  • It’s not an option for women who aren’t breastfeeding exclusively.

If you don’t feel completely protected with breastfeeding as birth control, there are other options, though.

Barrier birth control while breastfeeding 

Never underestimate the classics! Both condoms and diaphragms are great methods of birth control while breastfeeding. The new mummies can start using condoms any time after childbirth, while diaphragm use should be postponed until six weeks after. 

Advantages:

  • No side effects
  • Affordable and very easy to use

Disadvantages:

  • Diaphragms may be a bit tricky: the new mummy needs to wait six weeks before using them because she will still be healing during that time. Besides, the cervix position may have changed during childbirth, so the woman will need to be refitted even if she used diaphragms before. 

 

The progestogen-only pill

Also known as the minipill, it is for many women the go-to method of birth control while breastfeeding. The progestogen-only pill only uses the hormone progestogen and is estrogen-free, so there is no risk for the baby at all. It is extra easy to use for those women who were already familiarised with the contraceptive pill routine, but may be a tad difficult for the most absent-minded ones: you need to take it every day and at the same hour! There is one difference though: with the progestogen-only pill, you start another pack right after the previous one is finished, with no break between them.

Advantages:

  • If taken correctly, it is 99% effective!
  • You can start taking it on the 21st day after delivery.
  • It doesn’t affect the way your breast milk is produced and, since it’s completely estrogen-free, it won’t affect your baby. Small amounts of progestogen may pass to the baby though the milk, but it is harmless.

Disadvantages:

  • It’s a little less effective than the usual contraceptive pill.
  • You need to be very careful and strict with your schedule and take the pill at the same time every day. Some brands have a three-hour margin and some others have a twelve-hour one. If you surpass it, it may not be effective.
  • It may not be effective if you have severe diarrhea or vomits.
  • There may be side effects! You could get some spots on your skin or breast tenderness.

IUD as birth control while breastfeeding 

IUD is one of the most recommended methods of birth control while breastfeeding. Both the hormonal IUD and the copper IUD are small t-shaped devices that are inserted inside the uterus. The hormonal IUD releases the hormone progestogen, which makes the cervical mucus thicker and prevents fertilization. The copper IUD doesn’t release hormones, but creates an inflammation instead: this way, the sperm is prevented from fertilising the egg.

For both types of IUD, the new mummy needs to go to the doctor to have him insert it in the uterus, and then will need to go back after three months to check that everything’s OK. Of course, after that, you can’t forget about the annual visit to your OBG-YN. Yes, annual! Hormonal IUDs can last up to three years, and copper IUDs up to 10 years!

Advantages:

  • Very effective (more than 99%).
  • Very durable (up to 10 years) but without being permanent. Ideal for all the mums that feel like they have enough for a while – but not forever!
  • It can be extracted any time so don’t worry! You can change your mind. 

Disadvantages:

  • It’s more expensive than other birth control methods – but not so much if you consider its duration.
  • While this is not frequent because it’s a very effective method, if it fails, there’s a risk of suffering an ectopic pregnancy.
  • No DIY for this one! You will need your OBG-YN for inserting it and checking it periodically.

 

Implants as birth control while breastfeeding

Some women aren’t thrilled with the idea of having a device inside their uterus. With the implants, you can enjoy a durable birth control method without it. It is a device the size of a match that is inserted in the mummy’s arm. Once there, it releases the hormone progestogen as well and prevents the pregnancy.

Advantages:

  • Just like IUD, durable and very effective!
  • It is also reversible.

Disadvantages:

  • You can’t insert it yourself, so it requires a visit to the doctor.

 

Depo-provera shots, the latest choice of birth control while breastfeeding

After natural methods, barrier methods, pills, IUDs and implants, we can’t forget about the newest one: the Depo birth control shot, an injection of the hormone progestogen. It’s also estrogen-free and adequate while breastfeeding, and only requires a visit to the doctor every 12 weeks.

Advantages:

  • Almost 100% effective!
  • Easier than the pill for the absent-minded ones, and not as durable as the IUD: a decision for just three months!
  • An extra protection for the new mummies: it has some beneficial effects against lack of calcium.

Disadvantages:

  • Some lactation experts may tell you that it may not be completely innocuous to your baby. However, long-term studies have found no harmful effects in breastfed babies of mums who were using it.

Permanent birth control

Finally, of course, you can always decide that your new baby is more than enough and choose a permanent birth control method instead. That would be the tubal ligation or tubectomy, a fairly simple surgical procedure that ties a woman’s Fallopian tubes, preventing fertilization permanently. It’s a completely apt choice of birth control while breastfeeding and can be done right after delivery! 

Advantages:

  • The new mummy doesn’t need to wait at all! She can have her Fallopian tubes tied right after childbirth.
  • If you are having a C-section, you can have the surgery at the very same time.
  • Even if it’s more expensive, it’s worth it if you’re sure that you don’t want to get pregnant again, since it will last all your fertile life.

Disadvantages:

  • It’s more expensive than the other birth control methods.
  • Although it is not common, it implies the risk inherent to any surgical procedure.

So, as you can see, birth control while breastfeeding is not only possible, but also easy! There are options for any taste, so you’re free to feed your baby as you intended and still enjoy your sex life free of pregnancy scares. Remember that it is important to make a well-informed decision, so evaluate carefully all the specificities of the different birth control methods and talk to your doctor: you can ask him or her anything you need an answer for!

 

Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!

 

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