A woman can get pregnant when she is nursing. If you want to prevent pregnancy while nursing, you have a few options for birth control.
Sex After Childbirth
It used to be that women were advised to not have sex until six weeks after they gave birth, at their six week check-up. If you feel comfortable with this, then you can wait. However, the vagina typically heals after two weeks or so, and the cervix will also be closed after two weeks. If you haven’t had any complications, you can have sex as early as two weeks after you give birth. Ask your doctor if there are any reasons you shouldn’t. You might not want to have sex after you give birth: a woman’s hormones change dramatically after being pregnant, and sometimes they are not as *** charged. If you are interested in sex, know that you could be fertile again as soon as two weeks after you have your baby. Be aware of this and choose your contraception wisely.
Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)
This is sometimes also called the breastfeeding method. This is the method that has some people confused as to whether or not you can get pregnant while you are nursing. If you choose to nurse your baby and to not give your baby other milk, you can postpone your fertility.
This means you feed your baby every four hours (from both breasts). In the night, you have to feed your baby at least every six hours.
You can only use this method if you are nursing and if you haven’t had a period since your baby was born. This method only works for six months after the baby is born, and then you have to use another method.
Barrier methods of birth control won’t harm your nursing infant. These include condoms, female condoms, sponges, and prescription barrier based methods. With many prescription barrier methods, you have to wait until six to eight weeks after delivery: these include diaphragms, cervical caps, and shields.
If you are using a barrier based method with a spermicide, be sure that your vagina has healed thoroughly before using spermicide and having sex.
You cannot take a combination hormone treatment (one that has estrogen, or ethinyl estradiol, in it) if you are nursing. This means that you cannot take combination pills, you can’t wear the Patch, and you can’t use a Vaginal Ring. The estrogen will be found in your breastmilk and affect your baby, and will also affect your milk supply.
You can, however, use progestin-only methods of birth control. This includes progestin-only pills, which are sometimes called mini-pills, Depo-Provera, and Mirena, a hormonal IUD (intrauterine device). Many doctors claim that progestins are too large to pass into breastmilk and will not affect your baby.
Other doctors, however, are wary about using progestin-only birth control. Dr. Cindy McClain Pearman, a family practice physician from Knoxville, Tennessee, claims that “Mini-pills and Depo are not supposed to affect [milk] supply, but I have seen it happen often, especially with the mini-pill. "
If you feel uncertain about using hormonal birth control methods, you can always choose another form of birth control, be it abstinence, a barrier method, or a fertility awareness method.
IUDs: IntraUterine Devices
You can use a copper IUD while you are nursing; it will not affect your breastmilk. An IUD is a device that is inserted by your doctor. It means that you won’t be able to conceive until you have it removed by a professional. Often, women who have just given birth report easier IUD insertions.
Fertility Awareness Methods
You can choose to track your fertility after your baby is born. This cannot happen until you have your first period. To learn about tracking your fertility, you will need to speak to an expert: ask your doctor, or local clinic, or women’s group. You will have to abstain from sex on your unsafe days, or plan to use a back-up method.
Having just had a baby can be a magical (but tiring) experience. Family planning can benefit you, your partner, and your baby. Choose the option that seems right for you.
For more information on all of the above methods of birth control, visit The Guide to Birth Control .