Eager to start being sexually active again but worried about how pills can affect your milk supply? Learn about birth control for a breastfeeding mom here.
What can you read in this article?
- Are there pills for a breastfeeding mom in the Philippines?
- Can breastfeeding help with birth control?
- Other birth control methods for a breastfeeding mom
The first few weeks after giving birth, women are all about adjusting to their new role as a mom – taking care of their baby, getting used to the new sleeping hours, and establishing a good milk supply.
It can be challenging, but once you and your baby find your groove when it comes to breastfeeding, the days become easier, and the nights less frantic. You can already make time for things you used to enjoy with your partner, such as sex.
Having sex is an important issue for committed couples. It helps them feel closer to one another. While women enjoy feeling connected to their partners, one thing that prohibits them from fully getting back to sexual activity is the fear of getting pregnant again.
And birth control is not as simple as it used to be, because some contraceptive methods such as combination pills may have negative effects on breastfeeding mothers.
So, what are the birth control options for a breasting mom?
Breastfeeding as a natural form of birth control
Image from Pexels
For starters, you may have heard from other nursing moms that breastfeeding is a form of birth control. Well, there is some truth to it. According to Dr. Maureen Laranang, breastfeeding can affect a woman’s ability to conceive as it can stop ovulation.
When a mother does not breastfeed her baby or supplements breast milk with formula, she can have her period again as early as 8 weeks after birth. But if she breastfeeds exclusively and on demand, it will take 6 months for her to start ovulating and having her period again. This is known as lactation amenorrhea, and is a natural form of birth control.
“The mechanism is that it supresses the hormones that releases ovulation, which is why you don’t get your period. This is a form of natural contraception,” said Dr. Laranang.
While the doctor confirmed that lactation amenorrhea is effective in preventing ovulation and pregnancy, it still has its limitations. For it to work, you must be exclusively feeding your baby at least every four hours during the day, every six hours at night, and offer no supplement.
But as such, this form of birth control is only effective up 6 months after giving birth, which means that beyond that, you need to look for another contraceptive method should you not wish to get pregnant.
Oral birth control for the breastfeeding mom
One of the popular contraceptive methods in the country is oral contraception or better known as birth control pills. These contain hormones like estrogen and progestin to stop ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus to prevent pregnancy.
However, studies revealed that the more common one, combination pills, have negative effects on breastfeeding moms, one of which is to lessen her milk supply. So in this case, the only type birth control pills for a breastfeeding mom here in the Philippines is the mini pills or also known as progestin-only pills.
Should a breastfeeding mother take birth control pills?
The only type of pill that is suitable for breastfeeding moms is the mini. It differs from other birth control pills in the fact that it does not contain any estrogen, which stops breast milk production.
According to Healthline, progestin-only pills are almost 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
The mini is also the only birth control pill that has a long-term study available, meaning that babies who nursed while their mothers took this pill were followed into adolescence to determine any effect. None have been documented, although there have been concerns about exposing the new infant to unnecessary steroids.
How to take birth control pills for breastfeeding moms
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 advise 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.
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 effectsyou are experiencing from taking progestin-only pills are too severe (such as vomiting or diarrhea) or may be affecting your lifestyle, don’t hesitate to consult your OB-GYN so you can discuss other birth control options.
Depo-Provera Injection: Is This the Suitable Birth Control Method For You?
#AskDok: Kailan puwedeng makipagtalik ulit pagkatapos manganak?
“My husband won’t use condoms, I won’t use pills. What other contraceptives should we use?”
Other birth control options for breastfeeding moms
While the mini pill is the most popular and convenient contraceptive method for breastfeeding moms, there are still other forms that you can consider:
Hormonal intra-uterine devices or IUDs contain only the hormone progestin, which, as mentioned earlier, is safe for breastfeeding women and does not affect the milk supply.
Contraceptive devices such as condoms, cervical caps or a diaphragm prevents the sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing the egg. There are a variety of options available over-the-counter.
This is a small, rod-shaped device about the size of a matchstick that a doctor will insert underneath the skin on your upper arm and can help prevent pregnancy for up to four years. Like IUD, birth control implants contain the hormone progestin, which is safe for breastfeeding moms.
Birth control shots or also known as deepo provera shots are a long-lasting form of birth control, giving up three months of protection at a time, and is 97 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
It only contains the hormone progestin. However, if you plan on getting pregnant again in a couple of years, it’s important to note that birth control shots make take 10 months or longer for your fertility to return after discontinuing use.
Also known as the fertility awareness method, this form of birth control is safe for everyone (including breastfeeding moms), but needs attention to detail for it to actually work and be effective. You can learn about the different forms of natural family planning – including its risks and tips to make it work better – here.
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 from using your preferred contraceptive.
And as we mentioned before, it’s best to consult your OB-GYN before using pills and other artificial forms of birth control so that they can tailor fit it according to your body and your needs.
Image from Pexels
Updates by Camille Eusebio
Healthline, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic
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