Having a baby is a special time in a woman’s life. It is a time of discovery -- from learning all about your new baby’s personality to figuring out what your baby wants and needs. Many new mothers also find themselves navigating the process of breastfeeding. In the middle of all this excitement, birth control may be the farthest thing on your mind. Yet, unless you wish to add an additional brother or sister to the family nine months from now, it is important that you don’t overlook your birth control needs.
When it comes to breastfeeding and birth control, a new mommy has many contraceptive options to choose from. It is also important not to believe the myth that you cannot get pregnant while you are breastfeeding. Though breastfeeding can be considered a birth control method, there are specific conditions that must be met in order for it to be effective. It seems that many women do not think they are fertile again until they receive their first period after giving birth. Keep in mind that you will ovulate before you get your period. If you have unprotected sex around the time of your ovulation, you can become pregnant again. This is why using your period as a fertility indicator is not a good idea. Once you read about all the breastfeeding birth control options available, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor to decide which one may be best suited for you.
Breastfeeding birth control options fall into four categories: progestin-only hormonal methods, non-hormonal methods, natural methods and permanent methods. All of the following birth control methods are considered safe to use while breastfeeding:
Progestin-Only Methods:Progestin-only contraceptives
are hormonal birth control methods that require a prescription
from your doctor. Though the progestin may enter your milk supply, it will not cause any harm to your baby or cause a drop in milk production. These methods also tend to be more effective
than many non-hormonal alternatives.
Photo © 2009 Dawn Stacey
This is a progestin-only birth control pill
. Unlike its alternative, combination pills
, the mini-pill does not contain any estrogen
. These pills come in a 28-day pack, so all the pills in each 4-week pack contain progestin (there are no placebo pills).
Photo Courtesy of Merck
This is also known as the contraceptive implant. Nexplanon is the newer version of Implanon
as the manufacturer is slowly phasing out Implanon. This thin, plastic implant is inserted under the skin in the arm. It continually releases a low dose of progestin over 3 years and provides pregnancy protection during this whole time. Implanon or Nexplanon can also be removed any time during this 3-year period.
Photo © 2011 Dawn Stacey
This birth control method is an injection that slowly releases progestin into your bloodstream over a period of 11 to 14 weeks. So, you are protected from pregnancy during this time. It is important that you receive your next scheduled Depo Provera injection on time
so effectiveness will not be compromised.
Photo Courtesy of J. James
This is an IUD
that also releases a small amount of progestin over a 5-year timeframe. It must be inserted
by your doctor. It is highly effective and can be taken out at any time.
With a few exceptions, these breastfeeding birth control options are available over-the-counter
. Many are considered "barrier" methods since they basically act like a wall that blocks sperm from being able to reach the egg.
© Damon Hart-Davis
Condoms come in many types
, and materials (such as latex
). A man uses a condom
to cover his penis before, during and after ejaculation. Even though certain condoms come pre-lubricated, some breastfeeding mothers may have lower estrogen levels, which can cause vaginal dryness. If you find that condom use is irritating your vagina, you may choose to add some additional lubrication (like Astroglide
or Wet Naturals
Photo © 2009 Dawn Stacey
This birth control method consists of a pouch made from polyurethane with flexible rings at each end. It holds semen and does not allow the sperm to enter your body. It may take a little practice learning how to properly insert a female condom
until you feel comfortable using one.
Photo © 2010 Dawn Stacey
Spermicides come in different forms
, but basically work the same way -- spermicides are inserted deep into the vagina right before sex; they will then melt or bubble to form a barrier. They usually contain nonoxynol-9
, which is a spermicide that immobilizes and/or destroys sperm.
Photo Courtesy of Mayer Laboratories, Inc.
The sponge is a round, foam device that has an attached nylon loop for removal. It blocks the cervix (the opening to the uterus), so sperm cannot enter. It also releases a spermicide that can stop sperm from swimming. Having a good understanding of your anatomy, along with some practice, can make it easier for you to learn how to insert