Contraception choices for breastfeeding mothers
Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding is not a reliable form of contraception. Getting pregnant while breastfeeding is a possibility. If a breastfeeding mum does not want to risk getting pregnant, she needs to select an effective method of contraception.
When you've just gone through childbirth, to have another baby soon or not is the last thing on your mind. You are bound to be thinking about diapers and multiple feeds rather than contraception choices.
However, it is something that does need some serious thought from you, especially if you want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
If you are a breastfeeding mum, you may have been told: You cannot get pregnant while you are breastfeeding. While, some consider this an old wives’ tale there are others who swear by it.
The fact is that the truth is somewhere in-between.
We spoke with Dr Christopher Ng, Obstetrician/Gynaecologist at Gynae MD Women’s and Rejuvenation Clinic, to help clear the misperceptions that surround contraception choices available to breastfeeding mums.
Breastfeeding is not a reliable method of contraception
Using breastfeeding as birth control is called Lactational Amenorrhea and can only be an effective method of birth control if you meet all of the following criteria1:
- Your baby is not older than six months.
- Your baby is being exclusively breastfed.
- You feed your baby on demand and round the clock with no longer than four hours between day time feeds and no longer than six hours between night time feeds.
- Your periods have not returned post your baby’s birth.
However, what you need to know is that just because your period is delayed, it does not mean that you have stopped ovulating. Ovulation can return before you get your first period, post delivery.
You could get pregnant without even realising it until the pregnancy is already quite advanced. Therefore, relying on breastfeeding alone as a form of contraception may not be the best idea.
As a breastfeeding mum you need to know what are your other options.
Watch the video below to find out more about the contraceptive choices that are suitable for breastfeeding mums.
Click on the next page to find out what contraceptives can be used safely to avoid getting pregnant while breastfeeding.
What should be avoided?
What breastfeeding mums need to be aware of is to avoid any contraceptive that has estrogen as it can lower milk supply.
Typically, estrogen can be found in the regular birth control pills, so breastfeeding mums who have previously relied on the Pill as their chosen contraceptive, may now need to explore other options2.
Contraceptive options available
In effect mums have plenty of options when it comes to contraception even when breastfeeding.
- The Mini Pill (containing only progestin)
- Progestin Injectables
- Hormonal intrauterine devices
- Non-hormonal Intrauterine devices such as the Copper IUCD
- Barrier methods
- Natural family planning
Before you make a choice, do understand how each contraceptive works. Some of these are long term solutions, and should only be chosen if you want to space out your pregnancies by a certain number of years.
If you would like to find out more about contraceptive options available to you as a breastfeeding mum or have any questions regarding any particular choice, we recommend that you speak to your gynaecologist about it.
The information is brought to you by Bayer Healthcare.
- Family Planning: A global handbook for providers 2011. Chapter 19: Lactational Amenorrhea. Available at https://www.fphandbook.org/sites/default/files/chap_19_eng.pdf. Accessed 12 November 2015.
- https://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/breastfeeding-and-birth-control. Accessed Nov 2015
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