Do breastfeeding mums need birth control? Learn about it and check out your options for contraceptive methods here.
So you’ve already given birth and are now on a beautiful breastfeeding journey with your bub. Congratulations. If you’ve already recovered from labour and your doctor has given you the green light, you also might have started having sex with your partner.
Now that you’re sexually active again, the question remains: can you get pregnant?
Can Breastfeeding Mums Get Pregnant
“Breastfeeding mums can’t get pregnant.”
I was told this when I was breastfeeding my 6-month-old baby. Most nursing mums think that they have immunity from getting pregnant again as long as they are breastfeeding their child.
However, the truth is that breastfeeding can only be a natural contraceptive for a limited time, and especially if you have supplemented your milk with formula, then you should still consider other birth control options that are safe for nursing mums.
According to Dr Maureen Laranang, a gynaecologist from the Philippines, how soon our period comes and our ability to ovulate depends if you’re breastfeeding or not.
If you’re not breastfeeding your baby or supplementing breast milk with formula, your period might come back as soon as 8 weeks after giving birth. That means you can already get pregnant after that time.
Image Source: iStock
But if you’re exclusively breastfeeding your child on a regular schedule or on-demand, you can go for 6 months without getting your period, as breastfeeding suppresses hormones that promote ovulation. This is called lactation amenorrhoea.
While you are breastfeeding, your chance of conception drop to about 0.5 to 2 per cent, compared to 20 to 40 per cent for the average woman. Despite these low rates of conception, however, there is still the chance of pregnancy.
That being said, you cannot solely rely on breastfeeding as a form of contraception. So if you do not wish to get pregnant right away, you should consider other forms of birth control that are safe for breastfeeding mums.
Can I Use Hormonal Birth Control While Breastfeeding
As mentioned above, women have sex hormones that prevent ovulation such as estrogen and progestin. These two hormones are found in birth control pills.
However, estrogen has been linked to a decrease in milk supply for breastfeeding mums, which is why doctors advise against this for nursing mothers, especially if you are already having supply issues, or if you are nursing a child who is older than 1.
Doctors recommend that breastfeeding women use contraceptives that contain only progestin. Progestin birth control comes in several forms:
|Birth Control Method
|'Minipill' - progestin only pill
||Daily contraceptive pill
|Intra-uterine Device (IUD)
||A device inserted into the uterus, semi permanent
||Done four times a year by a medical professional
How to Take Birth Control Pills for Breastfeeding Mums
Just like any form of artificial contraception, you need to have a doctor’s prescription before you can take the pills. It is not recommended for a woman to take pills without the doctor’s advice as this may have adverse effects, especially if not used properly.
According to Dr Laranang, if you are not exclusively breastfeeding (meaning lactation amenorrhea does not take place), you can start taking the pills 6 weeks after giving birth. But if you were exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you can take birth control on your baby’s 6th month.
Image source: iStock
The mini-pill has to be taken every day with no breaks in between packs and at the same time every day in order to be effective. If you missed a pill, take it as soon as you remember, even if it means taking two pills in one day. You can abstain from sex or use backup contraception (such as condoms) for the next two days to be safe.
Unlike combination birth control pills, a pack of progestin-only pills don’t contain a week of inactive pills, so always have your next pack ready before you finish your current pack.
Some women may experience side effects while taking the pill, such as:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
- Breast tenderness
- Decreased sex drive (libido)
- Ovarian cysts
If the side effects you are experiencing from taking progestin-only pills are too severe (such as vomiting or diarrhoea) or may be affecting your lifestyle, do not hesitate to consult your gynaecologist so you can discuss other birth control options.
Non-hormonal Birth Control Options While Breastfeeding
Aside from hormonal birth control, you can also look at some alternative options.
|Birth Control Method
||A rubber, tube-like sheath made from latex that fits over an erect penis
||Widespread and easily available in Watsons, Guardian, and other supermarkets; protects against sexually transmitted infections
||Possibility of breakage of tearing during intercourse
||A soft disposable sheath placed in the vagina before intercourse
||Protection against some STIs
||Difficult to find in Singapore
||A chemical agent that disables sperm
||82%; more when combined with other forms of contraception
||Can provide lubrication during sex
||No protection against STIs and some people might be sensitive towards it
||A rubber shaped cap that's fitted over the vagina
||91% (for women who have not given birth); 74% (for women who have given birth before)
||Some protection against STIs - can be fitted 6-8 hours before intercourse
||Proper insertion is required and can be tricky to get right
All of these options are endorsed by the Singapore Health Promotion Board, but speak to your doctor about the best choice for you. Each individual is different!
Natural Family Planning
Also known as the fertility awareness method, this form of birth control is safe for everyone (including breastfeeding mums), but needs attention to detail for it to actually work and be effective. You can ask your doctor about the different forms of natural family planning – including its risks and tips to make it work better.
Need help? Don’t fret!
Whatever form of birth control method you choose, remember that it’s very important to discuss it with your partner so you can both manage the expectations of using your preferred contraceptive.
And as we mentioned before, it’s best to consult your gynae before using pills and other artificial forms of birth control so that they can tailor fit it according to your body and your needs.
In doubt about your options and want to know how other mums fare? Please consult a doctor, who can offer you more personalised advice according to your and your baby’s situation.
Image Source: iStock
theAsianparent also has a Singapore Breastfeeding Mums Support Group that you can join for mum-to-mum advice.
Updates by Camille Eusebio
Healthline, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.