Birth Control Options for Breastfeeding Moms

Oct 18, 2022

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Birth Control Options for Breastfeeding Moms

Giving birth to a new baby is an exciting time and a life-changing experience in a woman’s life. This time is filled with sleepless nights and frustrating moments, but the reward is your precious new child who brings endless love and joy.

Over 80% of newborns are breastfed at some point during their infancy. Mothers naturally desire to breastfeed their newborns, and the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans agree that human breastmilk is the best food for newborns and infants.

If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, you want to make sure you’re providing your baby with milk that is safe for your baby to drink. That means you may have to make some adjustments to avoid contaminating your milk supply. Medications are one way that a mother’s milk supply can be adversely affected.

In this blog, we’ll talk about contraceptive options after giving birth. We’ll cover safe birth control alternatives for breastfeeding mothers.

Related: Breastfeeding in the 21st Century: Setting up for Success

Natural LAM Birth Control

Breastfeeding is natural birth control. That’s because of a natural period of infertility follows childbirth. You can use this phase to your advantage; this contraceptive method is called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). You can temporarily use this phase as a birth control method for up to six months if you’re a breastfeeding mother.

There are three criteria that must apply in order to know that you’re protected from pregnancy with LAM. They include:

  1. Absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  2. Baby is breastfeeding full-time (not supplemented with formula)
  3. It has been less than six months since delivery

LAM can be up to 98% effective at preventing pregnancy for the first six months after delivery. However, once the three criteria above are no longer met, you’ll need to switch to another birth control method.

Avoid Hormonal Contraception While Breastfeeding

Many birth control methods, including the pill and the shot, are hormone-based. They work by delivering chemicals internally that alter your body’s normal hormone levels, influencing natural processes like suspending ovulation. Hormonal birth control methods can have negative consequences for breastfeeding mothers and infants, including:

  1. Lowered milk supply for the mother
  2. Hormone-tainted breastmilk for the baby

Several alternative contraceptive methods are compatible with breastfeeding mothers.

Related: Why Women are Switching to the Diaphragm as a Birth Control Alternative

Non-Hormonal Birth Control

While you’re still breastfeeding, your best options for birth control after LAM include barrier methods, copper IUDs, and natural family planning methods. These methods have no adverse effect on your milk supply or quality.

Barrier Methods

Condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and spermicides are all methods of birth control that work by creating a physical barrier that blocks sperm from entering the female reproductive system past the cervix. These non-hormonal alternatives work on-demand, as needed before sexual intercourse.

The effectiveness of each method and brand varies, but generally hovers around 80-85%. For example, the Caya diaphragm, which can be used six weeks after childbirth, has an effectiveness of 86% with perfect use and 82% with typical use.

If you’re interested in seeing if a diaphragm is right for you as a breastfeeding mother, My Virtual Physician has partnered with Caya to provide this hassle-free contraceptive option to our patients. Schedule an appointment today to find out.

Copper IUD

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped medical device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. The non-hormonal version of the device, branded as Paragard, prevents pregnancy by making the conditions inside the uterus unfavorable for sperm and therefore preventing fertilization. These devices can be very effective at over 99% and can be left in place for up to a decade. After having a baby, you’ll have two windows of opportunity to have Paragard inserted:

  1. Directly after childbirth
  2. One full month after childbirth or later

Keep in mind, though, that the risk of Paragard becoming embedded in the uterus increases for breastfeeding mothers.

Fertility Awareness-Based Methods

If you’re looking for a completely natural method of birth control while you breastfeed, you do have one more option on the table: fertility awareness. This method, abbreviated as FAM or FAB, involves tracking your menstrual cycles to determine your fertility window. During your fertility window, you can prevent pregnancy by avoiding sex or using a barrier method, such as condoms. Effectiveness is highly variable, ranging from 77% all the way up to 98%.

Related: Natural Birth Control: Fertility Awareness Pregnancy Prevention

Discuss Your Contraceptive Options While You Breastfeed

My Virtual Physician has board-certified OBGYNs and pediatricians on staff to help you navigate your contraceptive options after pregnancy. Connect with our doctors today to discuss your options and plan your post-delivery plan while you breastfeed your baby.

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