In the weeks following birth when you’re tired and breastfeeding around the clock, something like birth control is probably the last thing on your mind, right? It might surprise you that 70% of pregnancies in the first year postpartum were unintended.
Postpartum birth control isn’t only about spacing your children with your ideal timing apart. It’s also about safety for mom and baby. That’s why healthcare professionals recommend you develop a birth control plan a.s.a.p following delivery. While breastfeeding may decrease your fertility, it is still possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding.
But it’s important to note that when you’re breastfeeding, there are additional considerations for choosing a safe birth control method. Below, we’ll help you sort through what’s what to help support you with your breastfeeding goals.
WHY POSTPARTUM BIRTH CONTROL MATTERS
The World Health Organization recommends that women space their pregnancies about 24 months apart. Pregnancies spaced more closely together increase the likelihood of several serious infant and maternal outcomes.
Babies face an increased risk for:
- Birth defects
- Low birth weight
For moms, there is a higher chance of:
- Pregnancy anemia
- Maternal death
Scary stuff? Yes. But knowledge is power. There are simple steps you can put in place to minimize these risks.
SAFE BIRTH CONTROL FOR BREASTFEEDING MOMS
As a breastfeeding mom, you’re advised to consult your doctor before taking any kind of medication, and birth control is no different.
The good news is that all birth-control methods are safe for your baby while nursing, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). However, using a birth-control method containing estrogen may reduce your milk supply, especially in the early weeks of nursing. To help inform your discussion with your doctor, we’ve compiled a list of popular methods that won’t negatively impact your milk production.
1. Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills
There are two types of birth control pills: the combined pill (containing estrogen and progestin) and progestin-only pills, a.k.a. “the mini pill.” Research has found that progestin-only hormonal methods do not decrease milk supply and are safe for infants. Still, ACOG recommends that you wait until your milk supply is established, even before taking a progestin-only pill. It’s important to note that progestin-only pills must be taken at the same time each day for maximum effectiveness.
There are also two types of IUDs: the copper IUD, which doesn’t contain hormones, and the hormonal IUD, which releases a small amount of progestin (that’s the one to ask for if you’re nursing!). Many moms like IUDs because after they are inserted, there is nothing to remember to take—a big plus for an exhausted new moms!
3. Barrier Methods
Condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps don’t contain hormones and are safe; however, they are not as effective as other methods.
4. Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)
Breastfeeding can suppress fertility, but only after three guidelines are met: exclusive feeding at the breast every four hours; your periods have not returned, and your baby is under six months of age. Important: While pumping and feeding with a bottle counts as “exclusively feeding breastmilk,” introducing the bottle can make LAM ineffective in preventing pregnancies. (For more information read: Myths and Facts About Breastfeeding as Birth Control. )
DID YOU KNOW?
Forty to 57% of couples begin having sex before the 4-6 week postpartum appointment when birth control options are routinely discussed. With this article, The Baby Box Co. seeks to raise awareness about the risks of closely spaced pregnancies to mom and baby, and that you can get pregnant while breastfeeding without a good plan in place. Got a friend who may not know? Please share this article!
EXCLUSIVE FOR OUR MEMBERS: Take our Breastfeeding Basics class, and we’ll reward you with a sweepstakes entry to win a year of FREE birth control thanks to our proud sponsor Nurx, who shares our goal of supporting breastfeeding moms. (Got insurance? Great news! You already qualify for free birth control + free delivery via Nurx. We’ll direct you there when you complete the class!)