The baby has been here for a few months, breastfeeding is finally going smoothly, and you are starting to get in your groove…..but what about birth control? If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, nature has given you a built in birth control option for the first 6 months or so. Lactational Amenorrhea refers to the delay of fertility during breastfeeding. In order for the Lactational Amenorrhea method to be effective (and it can be as high as 98% effective), the following must be true:
- Your period has not returned
- You are exclusively breastfeeding(baby is not receiving any other form of nourishment)
- You are going no longer than four hours during the day and six hours at night between feedings
- Your baby is younger than 6 months old.
The wonderful thing about breastfeeding as birth control is that it gives a new mom a nice long window before she needs to worry about other options. Once baby is a little older and you are considering other forms of birth control, you do have a few methods to choose from:
Natural Family Planning – If you tend to have pretty regular cycles then Natural Family Planning might be perfect for you. With NFP, you learn to chart your cycles so that you know when you are fertile, and abstain from intercourse during that time. If you decide to go this route, I strongly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.
Barrier Methods– Barrier methods such as condoms, cervical caps, and diaphragms are definitely compatible with breastfeeding. Barrier methods can be used alone or combined with other methods for extra protection. Diaphragms are effective approximately 88% of the time with typical use. If used correctly, condoms are about 98% effective. A cervical cap is only about 71% effective for women who have given birth vaginally.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) – IUDs are devices that are inserted through the cervix and into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are available in both hormonal and non-hormonal forms. Both forms are considered compatible with breastfeeding. IUDs are extremely effective, with a failure rate of less than 1%. I have heard stories of unpleasant side effects with IUDs, so make sure to do your research if this is something you are considering.
The Mini-Pill- A Progestin-only birth control pill is considered compatible with breastfeeding. In order to be effective, the mini-pill needs to be taken at the same time every day.
Forms of birth control containing estrogen can affect a mothers milk supply and are not the best choice during breastfeeding. The above information is meant to give an overview of the choices available but does not include all of the advantages, side effects, and risks of each option.