Birth Control for Breastfeeding Women

woman breastfeeding Contrary to popular legend, breastfeeding women can become pregnant. However, methods of birth control exist that present no problems for either the nursing mom or her baby. The health benefits that breastfeeding offers newborns are widely known and well-documented by numerous studies, and the convenience and cost savings associated with breastfeeding are significant. While most women who choose to breastfeed do so until their baby gets their first teeth (age 4-6 months), some will continue for much longer, often into the child's second year.Since most women resume sexual activity several weeks after delivery, the need for effective birth control is an important consideration. The ideal method is one that is completely safe for the newborn infant, free of side effects for the nursing mother, and highly effective in preventing pregnancy. While no current method fits that exact description, there are several good options available to the woman who chooses to breastfeed.The methods available to breastfeeding women include hormonal contraceptives, barrier methods, the intrauterine device (IUD), and sterilization. If you plan to breastfeed, talk to your healthcare provider before your delivery about which method might be best for you.

Breastfeeding Is Not a Contraceptive

The common misconception that breastfeeding itself prevents pregnancy has consistently been proven wrong. The fact is, if you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months of life, you have a lower probability of becoming pregnant.Breastfeeding can be a natural way to prevent pregnancy after birth with the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM). While you are nursing, hormones that cause ovulation are not produced. If ovulation does not occur, pregnancy cannot happen. Is this an effective method? Not compared to other birth control methods. While it is true that a nursing mom is less likely to become pregnant than a mother who bottlefeeds, there is no guarantee that pregnancy will not occur if birth control is not used.

Hormonal Contraceptives

The Pill and Mini-pill

The combination birth control pill, commonly referred to as the pill , combines estrogen and progesterone hormones. Progesterone-only birth control pills, also called the mini-pill , only contain progesterone. Hormone contraceptives may work by disrupting the hormone cycle that results in ovulation. Some pills thicken cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to meet the egg. Other pills do both. Mini-pills are a popular choice for many nursing and non-nursing women. Mini-pills are less effective than combination pills. However, it is often recommended over combination pills after delivering your baby because combination pills increase your risk of developing a blood clot. Also, despite insufficient evidence to prove it, many organizations are concerned that combined oral contraception may suppress milk production, so they do not recommend them in breastfeeding women. Most women will not menstruate as long as they remain on the mini-pill—a welcome side effect for some women.When breastfeeding is discontinued, an easy transition can be made to a combination pill. It is essential that the mini-pill be taken everyday at the same time to be effective. Noncompliance can result in an unintended pregnancy.


This option is an injectable hormonal contraceptive, which is given every 3 months. Breastfeeding women should wait until 6 weeks after delivery before receiving their first injection. The progesterone-like hormone contained in Depo-provera will not harm the nursing infant, is almost 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, and will not reduce your milk supply. Side effects include irregular periods or absence of periods and weight gain.

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