Your life has certainly changed since you welcomed your new baby into the world, right? Between middle of the night feedings, the spit-up, and growing mountain of diapers, you might feel as if your entire world has become your newborn, and you definitely don’t feel sexy to your partner. However, this will change as your life begins to settle down again and your more amorous feelings will start to return.
You’ve waited the six weeks past delivery, and you’ve been cleared by your doctor to resume sex with your partner, but now it’s time to think about something you probably haven’t thought about in quite some time: Birth Control. You may think that because you are breastfeeding, or because you recently delivered, that you may not be able to ovulate so soon. This is not true and ovulation can occur as soon as four weeks after delivery. So unless you are hoping for a sibling very close in age to your current bundle of joy, protection is the way to go!
You may be asking yourself, however, what kind of birth control can or should I use? Well keep reading! We will be covering 10 of the most common post-baby birth control options below.
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Breastfeeding (Lactational Amenorrhea)
One of the most common pieces of advice you might be given post-delivery is that as long as you are breastfeeding, you do not need to use birth control. Many people believe that the hormones released during breastfeeding are enough to delay ovulation. This can be true, but there are important caveats that accompany this fact.
- You MUST be exclusively breastfeeding your baby. This means you need to be feeding your baby only breast milk and no other foods.
- Your breastfeeding should be on a consistent schedule in which you feed your baby every 2 hours or so. This also means your child should not be allowed to sleep throughout the night, and should instead be waking up to continue feedings.
- This method can only be used for babies under 6 months old.
This can be almost impossible to keep up with, especially as the child gets past the newborn phase. Feeding schedules fluctuate and oftentimes it is difficult to stick to a short schedule that would allow for delayed ovulation.
Non-Hormonal or Mechanical Contraception
A phrase that many doctors fear is Fertility Awareness. These methods can be highly effective, but are often used incorrectly which results in unexpected pregnancy. This method relies on taking your Basal Body Temperature and monitoring cervical mucus changes. However, this method is incredibly unreliable after birth! Your body is going through many changes, so learning to use this method after birth can be complicated. The effectiveness is only 75%, even when used by people who are experienced in the method, so it is recommended that you use another method of contraception in addition to this.
Withdrawal is another non-hormonal or mechanical contraceptive method you can use. Also warned against by doctors because of its incorrect usage, withdrawal relies on trusting your partner to “pull out” before ejaculation to prevent pregnancy. If used perfectly, it is 81% effective, but again, is the most effective when used with another form of contraception.
Hormonal Birth Control
“If you are breastfeeding, do not use any birth control that contains estrogen as it can limit your breast milk supply.”
Hormonal forms of birth control are the most popular form of contraception for women, even after birth. There are multiple versions of hormonal birth control options that are available to you.
- The common nickname used for the combined hormone birth control pill. This contraceptive is taken orally once a day and is a combination of estrogen and progestin. The pill works by suppressing ovulation, and thickening cervical mucus so that sperm cannot penetrate. It has a 95% to 99% effectiveness rate, but only if used perfectly with no missed pills, all taken at the same time each day. Many women choose this method as it can be taken after six weeks, and allows for constant coverage.
- The NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into your vagina at the beginning of each month. It works the same way as the pill, with a combination of estrogen and progestin that suppresses ovulation and thickens cervical mucus. It sports a 95% effectiveness if used perfectly, but, like the pill, should not be used if you are breastfeeding.
- The intra-Uterine Device is a popular option for many women. It works by inserting a small T-shaped device into your uterus by a physician, and will contain either hormones or copper wire to help prevent pregnancy. While most methods require the six-week waiting period before beginning birth control, many doctors will agree to place it in the uterus directly after birth as well. It has a 97% to 99% effective rating, and is safe to use while breastfeeding. Women also consider this method convenient as it normally provides 5 to 10 years of protection, but fertility returns quickly if taken out sooner. However, it can cause an increase in cramping and bleeding during menstruation.
- The Depo-Provera contraceptive is a shot given every 12 weeks. It contains a high dosage of Progestin that works to thicken cervical mucus and suppress ovulation. It has an effectiveness rating of 99%, and is safe to use while breastfeeding. However, this method can result in weight gain, and changes in your appetite, sex-drive, and mood.
- The Nexplanon implant is a small, inch long, flexible rod that is inserted under the skin on a woman’s upper left or right arm in a short five-minute procedure. It delivers a constant stream of synthetic progesterone into your bloodstream, which prevents ovulation and thickens your mucus. It boasts one of the highest effectiveness ratings at 99.5%, and lasts for three years. It can carry the side effects of headache, periodic nausea, and it can completely stop menstruation. However, it is safe for breastfeeding, and fertility returns almost immediately after removal.
Barrier methods are the other most common contraceptives used as they quite literally form a barrier between your body and sperm. They are a popular choice as they do not contain any hormones and thus are safe for breastfeeding mothers.
- Probably the first thing most people think of as “protection” is a condom. The benefit of a condom is that it does not need to be fitted, and can be used with lubrication if needed. Condoms do have a lower effectiveness rating of around 86% but are convenient as they can be bought just about anywhere.
Diaphragm or Cervical Cap
- These are other popular barrier methods that do not carry any hormones. With these methods, you need to be fitted by a doctor to ensure that they are the right size and shape for your cervix. These methods do, however, hold some of the lowest effectiveness ratings with 80% for a diaphragm and only 60% for the cervical cap in women who have had a child.
Having a child is a wonderful and amazing experience, but one that you may not be ready to repeat so soon after welcoming your current child into the world. Hopefully this article has helped inform you on some choices available to you. Be sure to discuss any contraceptive choices with your doctor if you have questions.