Many women are surprised to find that the act of breastfeeding counts towards a method of birth control. Breastfeeding is considered a reliable non-hormonal option during the first six months after giving birth only if a woman is exclusively breastfeeding. Typically during the initial postpartum period, a breastfeeding woman doesn’t get a period, meaning the risk of ovulation is significantly lower. However, after six months or whenever a woman resumes menstruation, other methods of birth control should be introduced to avoid pregnancy.
2. Is hormonal birth control safe?
If a woman is concerned about accidentally getting pregnant, some forms of hormonal birth control known as progestin-only contraceptives are perfectly safe to take immediately following pregnancy. Common options include shots, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and implants. Additionally, some birth control pills known as the mini-pill are also acceptable. However, women should avoid using any methods that include the hormone estrogen for the first three weeks after birth. Estrogen has been linked with reducing milk supply which is why doctors recommend avoiding estrogen-based options like the patch, most pills, and the ring.
3. Which options pose the least risk to baby or breastmilk?
For women concerned about birth control options that might impact the milk supply or the baby, barrier methods can be the safest. Barrier methods contain no hormones and rely, as the name implies, on a physical barrier to prevent conception from occurring. Most midwives and obstetricians recommend that a woman who has just given birth avoid having sex for the first six weeks. Afterward, women can consider using barrier options such as condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, spermicides, natural planning, and sponges.
Picking the right birth control
The right birth control is a personal choice that every woman has to make. While some women might prefer taking a pill or using breastfeeding as birth control, others may feel more confident with a barrier method. Regardless of which method is selected, women should speak with a physician before deciding.