Now that you've finally welcomed your newborn into the world, you're probably not looking to get pregnant immediately.
While you want to spend the time soaking up your new baby, you're also probably excited about giving your body a break after nine months of pregnancy as well as the physically demanding experience of birth.
If you're breastfeeding, this can impact the contraception method you choose as some forms of birth control aren't recommended for breastfeeding parents.
We've rounded up the best options for breastfeeding mums so you can make an informed decision when it comes to contraception after birth.
How likely is it to get pregnant while breastfeeding?
There is always a chance of falling pregnant after giving birth, even if you are breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can act as a temporary birth control method, but there are several rules you will need to follow for this natural family planning method to successfully prevent pregnancy.
Many mums will experience a time of delayed fertility while breastfeeding.
However, if you are not engaging in exclusive breastfeeding and have been supplementing with formula at times, you will need to rely on another form of birth control to ensure you do not fall pregnant during this time.
Can breastfeeding prevent pregnancy?
As mentioned above, breastfeeding can be a temporary birth control method, however, there are some caveats.
This form of birth control is known as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). It only works if you exclusively breastfeed and don't supplement with formula or anything else for the first six months.
Research has found that people who breastfeed their babies usually have a more extended period of amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) after giving birth than those who don't breastfeed.
The length of time of postpartum amenorrhea is variable, however, in general, the more frequent the woman feeds and the more months she spends breastfeeding, the longer the period of reduced fertility.
To use LAM correctly, you will need to:
- Exclusively breastfeed: You will need to delay introducing solid foods and avoid feeding your baby formula.
- Nurse whenever your baby wants to: You will need to be feeding at least every four hours during the day and every six hours during the night, and pumping is not an adequate substitute, unfortunately!
- Avoid giving your baby a dummy: You will need your baby to satisfy their sucking needs while breastfeeding instead of using a dummy.
According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding, if you follow all of the above provisos, there is a very low chance of less than two per cent of getting pregnant.
It is essential to follow the four and six-hourly feeds during the day and night, respectively, as you may start ovulating during the six-month timeframe if you're not following these rules.
Unfortunately, you may have no real clue whether or not the Lactational Amenorrhea Method works as you can fall pregnant before your first postpartum period.
If your period has returned, even if you are just spotting, and if your baby is older than six months, you will be unable to rely on LAM and need to consider other forms of birth control.
If you are breastfeeding after welcoming your baby, you may experience some discomfort and challenges that are totally normal for new mums.
But, these experiences can sometimes force you to take a break from breastfeeding due to sore and cracked nipples, for example.
The Nipple Balm helps build skin elasticity, combat dryness and prevent nipple cracking. It's also safe for your baby so you don't have to wipe it off before feeding.
The Breast Pads are lightweight and absorb moisture and ease discomfort from sensitive and sore nipples.
When should you start using contraception after birth?
Once a birth parent is ready to return to sexual activity after welcoming their child, they will need to begin considering birth control options.
Most doctors will recommend new parents wait until after their six-week check-up before having sex, however, many people choose to engage in sexual activity before the six-week mark if they are ready.
It's important to note that you can become pregnant even if you are breastfeeding and haven't had a period yet.
Using birth control before your first postpartum period is safe and encouraged to prevent unplanned pregnancies after giving birth.
You have several options for birth control after giving birth, including hormonal methods such as a contraceptive implant, contraceptive injection, the progestogen-only pill, and barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms, which also protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
You may also choose to have an IUD inserted within the first 48 hours after giving birth, otherwise, it's advised to wait until four weeks postpartum.
Depending on when you get your first postpartum period, you may be able to start using the pill or a contraceptive patch, as long as you've been cleared by a healthcare professional three weeks after delivering your baby.
Otherwise, you may need to wait until six weeks postpartum.
Who should not use the lactational amenorrhea method?
A few people will be unable to use LAM due to being unable to breastfeed and may want to consider another contraception method.
These factors include:
- HIV infection: HIV may be transmitted from a mother to their child through breast milk and those with HIV may avoid breastfeeding as a result.
- Medication: Certain medications shouldn't be used with breastfeeding. Make sure to speak to your healthcare professional about any medication you might be on and whether it may interfere with breastfeeding.
- The newborn cannot breastfeed: If your baby has a condition that makes it difficult to breastfeed, such as the inability to digest food normally, being born premature, small for their age or having issues with their mouth, jaw or palate.
Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding if your period hasn't returned?
Women are generally fertile two weeks before their period, which means that even if you haven't yet had your period, you can still fall pregnant!
Your first period after birth might not restart until you stop breastfeeding, but this doesn't mean that you haven't been fertile before then.
Can you breastfeed while on the pill?
All birth control is safe for a breastfeeding mum. However, hormonal contraceptives that have oestrogen, like the combination pill, can impact your breast milk supply, so you may choose to wait six weeks postpartum before taking the pill.
While some women will tolerate the pill without any issue with breast milk supply, it can cause some mums' milk to dry up completely.
Once that six-week timeframe has passed following your delivery, you can take the pill, knowing it's completely safe.
If you weren't breastfeeding or at risk of blood clots, you could take the pill as soon as you like after giving birth.
But, it can be difficult to remember to refill your script and missing days on the pill is easy to do.
This is why Kin created the Contraceptive Pill Subscription, which allows you to speak with a doctor online and have the pill shipped straight to your door.
With a Kin membership, you don't need to worry about ever running out of the pill again because it will always ship to your door on time.
And, you'll still have regular contact with your Kin doctor to monitor how you're going with the contraception and ask any burning medical questions you may have.
What are the safest contraception options when breastfeeding?
There are many options when it comes to contraception for breastfeeding mothers. These include:
- The mini pill
- Contraceptive injection
- Intrauterine device or IUD
- Permanent sterilisation
In terms of emergency contraception, you can use:
- Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill (LNG-ECP): This is sometimes referred to as the 'morning after pill'.
- Copper IUD: This can be inserted within five days of unprotected sex and can provide long-term protection.
Contraception that isn't recommended while breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, it's best to not use the following types of contraception:
- The combined oestrogen/progestogen contraceptive pill is not recommended before six weeks postpartum as it can reduce your breast milk production. After this, it is perfectly safe!
- The vaginal ring is also not recommended for the same reasons as the combined pill — it also contains hormones and can impact breast milk supply.
- The ulipristal acetate (UPA) emergency contraceptive pill is excreted in breast milk, and the effect on the baby is unknown. If you use this, you should not breastfeed for seven days after.