Birth Control and the Breastfeeding Mom
Before you decide which form of birth control to use while breastfeeding, it's important to know what your options are.
Before I got pregnant the first time, I was on an average combination hormonal birth control pill. My body adjusted to it well, and I didn’t have any adverse side effects. I never needed to research different varieties of birth control options since the most common and basic one worked well for me. After having my first daughter, though, and breastfeeding, I realized that starting back up on birth control wasn’t as easy as some varieties can decrease your breast milk supply. I really had to do my research and consult with my OB before deciding which direction was best for me to go in. Here is some important information that I’ve gleaned for breastfeeding moms to know when deciding how to proceed with birth control after having baby.
- Avoid Estrogen: It’s important to know that combination birth control options containing estrogen are not recommended for the breastfeeding mom. This hormone has been known to reduce your breast milk supply, even though it’s been approved for nursing mothers to take.
- Progestin Only: When deciding to go the route of a hormonal birth control option, progestin has been known to not affect breast milk supply for most women if started at least six weeks after giving birth. At this point, your breast milk supply should be well established.
- The Mini Pill: The progestin only mini pill is a great option for those who choose to take an oral form of birth control. It’s important to note, though, that with this option, you must take it at the same time every day for it to be fully effective as it’s less effective as the combination hormonal birth control options in keeping ovulation from occurring, especially so if not taken exactly as directed.
- IUD: IUD’s, such as Mirena, that only have progestin, are a great option for the breastfeeding mom who doesn’t want to have to remember to take a pill every day. It is recommended to wait longer than four weeks to have an IUD placed, though my OB insisted I wait at least eight weeks, so that the oxytocin released while breastfeeding doesn’t cause expulsion of the IUD. IUD’s are generally effective for five years.
- Birth Control Shot: A birth control shot, such as Depro Provero, is a progestin only birth control injection that is effective for 12 weeks. Because of the fact that this injection could work longer than 12 weeks, it’s recommended to try out the mini pill before committing to the injection, as it could take 12 weeks to 18 months to become pregnant after getting this shot.
- Birth Control Implant: An implant, such as Norplant, is another progestin option and is effective for three years. This small rod is placed in your upper arm by a trained health professional.
- Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): This method is simply relying on breastfeeding to be your birth control and is 98% effective. Three factors must be in place before trusting this method. First, baby must not be receiving any supplemental food or formula. Second your baby must be younger than 6 months old, and finally, your menstrual cycle has not returned. As well, it is noted that if baby goes longer than three hours during the day and six hours in the evening without breastfeeding, your chances of relying only on breastfeeding isn’t as effective. If these circumstances are not met, this is not the best way to rely for birth control.
- Fertility Awareness Method (FAM): Once menstruation returns, generally after six months postpartum, you can opt to use the fertility awareness method. Being in tune with your body can help to identify when ovulation will happen and how to avoid pregnancy if you’re not ready to add another little one to your family.
It’s very important, with whichever method you choose, to discuss with your options with your own health care provider. There are always risks involved with using hormonal birth control options. This is a very personal decision, and it’s important to educate yourself further on the specifics involved with each form of birth control mentioned above.
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