Birth Control Options for the Breastfeeding Mother

Most women want to allow some space between their pregnancies, but many breastfeeding mothers may not know all of their options. While it is true that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life works as birth control for the mother (with a 98% effective rate), it is important for women to think about birth control options before they become fertile again.

While a woman is breastfeeding it is important that all hormonal contraception methods containing estrogen should be completely avoided. Contraception methods containing estrogen can negatively affect milk production, and it is also unclear as to what long-term effects children may have from estrogen entering breast milk. Mothers and physicians generally prefer non-hormonal contraceptives because there is no negative affect on the milk supply.

Condoms are very effective if used correctly, and have no risks to the mother or the child. Condoms are also readily available and easy to use in pregnancy prevention. Diaphragms can also be very effective if used correctly and have no effect on breastfeeding. Diaphragms’ effectiveness depends on having a correct fit; therefore women who used a diaphragm before birth will need to be re-fitted after the baby is born because the uterus will have changed throughout pregnancy. IUDs are also a means of non-hormonal contraception that are inserted at or after the 6 weeks postpartum appointment.

While there are permanent methods of birth control that have no effect on breastfeeding, these methods are not encouraged for women (or men) who are under the age of 30. Methods such as tubal ligation and vasectomy are considered irreversible, and counseling is recommended for those who choose this method of birth control.

By talking with your doctor, you can determine the best choice of birth control for you as a breastfeeding mother. If you wish to put space between your pregnancies, it is important to have options set up before your fertility rate rises after giving birth.

Posted on behalf of Carlos Alarcon, M.D., Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates, P.A.

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