For recent moms, breastfeeding can act as a birth control in specific circumstances. A Twentyeight Health physician partner is answering all your questions about how it works, the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding as a form of birth control, and when you should consider other birth control methods for healthy birth spacing.
1. What is the likelihood I get pregnant after giving birth?
The likelihood of getting pregnant after giving birth is different from person to person and depends on when you start to ovulate again. It is unlikely, but possible, to get pregnant less than six weeks after having a baby.
If you want to prevent a subsequent pregnancy after having a baby talk to your doctor about your birth control options before giving birth or soon after so you can make a plan that works for you.
2. What are my postpartum contraception options?
This will depend on whether you choose to breastfeed or not and your medical history, including any medical issues during your pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding it is best to avoid estrogen-based birth control for the first three weeks, because it may decrease your milk supply. This still leaves a range of effective postpartum birth control options that can be initiated immediately after giving birth, including:
Some birth control options must be avoided for at least 3 weeks after giving birth because of increased risk of blood clot development. They may need to be avoided for longer depending on your medical history. This includes any medical issues that arose during your pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, among others. These birth control options to avoid during this time are:
We recommend speaking with your doctor to choose a method that’s right for you.
3. How does breastfeeding as a form of birth control work?
Under certain conditions breastfeeding can work as a form of birth control. If you exclusively breastfeed, meaning you feed your baby only breastmilk, your body will stop ovulating. When you stop ovulating, you cannot get pregnant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three factors are necessary for breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy:
If you wish to use breastfeeding as a form of birth control you should not use a breast pump. Breastfeeding is only an effective form of birth control if you nurse your baby as it is the infant suckling that stimulates the suppression of ovulation.
Finally, for breastfeeding to work as birth control you need a strong nursing relationship with your baby. Many people have challenges with nursing, and this is something to consider when deciding whether to rely upon breastfeeding as your primary pregnancy prevention method.
4. What are the advantages of using breastfeeding as a form of birth control?
When done properly, breastfeeding is an easy, safe, and free way to prevent pregnancy for up to six months after your baby’s birth. Additionally, breastfeeding offers a range of other benefits for parents including reducing bleeding after the delivery of your baby and reducing your chances of getting breast cancer.
Breastfeeding offers a range of advantages for your baby. Your breast milk contains antibodies that can help protect your baby from infections and gives your baby the best nutrition. Breastfeeding also creates a strong bond between you and your baby. Finally, studies have also shown that breastfeeding may reduce your baby’s risk of allergies and asthma.
5. What are the disadvantages of using breastfeeding as a form of birth control?
Relying on breastfeeding as a form of birth control also has disadvantages. As explained above, for breastfeeding to work as birth control you have to breastfeed exclusively and very frequently. This requires a significant amount of time and energy that many parents cannot dedicate.
Additionally, breastfeeding only works as a form of birth control for six months after giving birth. This means that after six months you will need to find an alternative form of birth control. In some instances people get their period before six months, even while breastfeeding, and that means it is time to rely upon a different method of birth control.
Finally, breastfeeding does have some side effects for parents. Breastfeeding can reduce vaginal lubrication, making sex uncomfortable.
6. Is it safe to take birth control while I breastfeed?
As described above, estrogen-based birth control should be avoided during the first three weeks of breastfeeding, because of their potential to decrease your milk-supply. Otherwise, it is safe to take birth control while you breastfeed and neither you or your baby will be harmed by doing so.
Looking for more personalized info? Message a doctor through Twentyeight to get medical advice based on your needs and lifestyle.