Before we dive in to this topic I must stress that before you resume sexual activity after giving birth, you must receive that stamp of approval from your OB/GYN at your 6-week follow up appointment. Your body went through a tremendous amount of stress during pregnancy, labor and delivery and therefore, please err on the side of caution and get the thumbs up before you do anything! (Seeing a pelvic health physical therapist is not a bad idea either.)
Now. Let me start off loud and clear, debunking possibly one of the most common (and wholly unhelpful!) myths of breastfeeding:
BREASTFEEDING IS NOT A RELIABLE FORM OF BIRTH CONTROL!!
Yes, breastfeeding can suppress ovulation. The hormone used to make milk, Prolactin, also suppresses the release of hormones that cause eggs to mature and become fertile. This is why breastfeeding mothers notice a delay in their period returning, which is called LAM or Lactational Amenorrhea. Sounds like I just contradicted myself right? Let me explain why I say it’s not reliable. In order to continue to suppress fertility hormones you need to breastfeed continuously, meaning EVERY 2 hours throughout the day and night. That means it’s just exclusive breastfeeding without supplementation of any kind! Many moms start out this way but slowly as the baby grows, stretch their feedings and do give an occasional supplement. So please, heed my warning.
If you’re not planning another pregnancy in the near future, here are my top birth control choices for breastfeeding moms:
Non-hormonal options are generally favored for breastfeeding moms, especially at first. It is challenging enough to build and maintain your milk supply, why put your supply at possible risk by adding additional hormones in your body unnecessarily?
Readily available, and no doctor appointment or prescription necessary to purchase. Plus you can give this responsibility to your partner to take care of in the short-term so that you can consider all your options together before you consult your doctor.
A non-hormonal IUD (intrauterine device) which lasts up to 12 years. It’s gaining in popularity over the hormonal IUD option Mirena. Users report longer periods but no cramping. Find out more about ParaGuard and common side effects.
Birth control options containing low doses of hormones are safe for breastfeeding mothers.
Progestin Only Pill (mini-pill)
The mini pill is an oral contraceptive containing the synthetic form of progesterone. It is up to 95% effective in preventing pregnancy and works by forcing the thickening of the cervical mucus.
The mini is a little harder to get used to taking in that you must take the pill the same time daily for 28 days. Traditional oral contraceptives are a bit more forgiving.
Shots and Implants
Both contain the same hormone, go into your arm, and have similar side effects. The Depo-Provera shot lasts up to 2 months and is a great option for moms on the go who want a short term, inexpensive option without the worry of taking something daily.
The implant (Nexplanon/Implanon) is a thin rod about the size and thickness of a toothpick. The device is implanted in your arm where it remains in place for about 3 years. It is a longer-term form of birth control but can be removed any time.
Both the shot and implant have similar side effects such as weight gain, mood swings, loss of libido, spotting, depression and irregular periods have widely been reported by users. Many implant users report that their periods are totally eliminated after a year time frame.
No Mirena? No NuvaRing? Both popular options are listed as safe forms of birth control for breastfeeding moms in that they prevent unwanted pregnancy and are safely metabolized to your baby. However, both products have been known to have an impact on milk supply. Have an open conversation with your doctor and choose the right method that’s safe and effective, and won’t compromise all the wonderful accomplishments you and your baby have made together with breastfeeding.
Contact Boston Baby Nurse today to schedule a lactation consult.