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Postpartum Birth Control: 11 Options to Choose From

Family planning after pregnancy is crucial because it helps prevent closely spaced pregnancies. And you are able to get enough time to fully recover before getting pregnant again. Here are 11 birth control options to consider.
condom, pills and other postpartum birth control options

How soon do I need to use contraception after delivery?

Your caregiver should advise you on how soon you should start using contraception. But the sooner you start using birth control, the better because it is possible to find yourself pregnant again soon after giving birth. Even though you are breastfeeding or your periods have not returned.  

If you are breastfeeding, your periods may return 5 or 6 weeks after delivery. Usually, breastfeeding tends to delay the arrival of the periods due to prolactin effects. But once you start getting your baby off breast milk gradually, your period is likely to return. Although there are women who get their periods a lot earlier.  

Ovulation occurs 14 days before your period starts, so chances of getting pregnant within this period are significantly high. 
Many of the birth control methods can be used right after childbirth. Avoid waiting until your periods return to start using postpartum contraception because chances of becoming pregnant again before they return are high. 

What are the birth control options to choose from?

When it comes to postnatal contraception, you have several options to choose from and you may choose when you want to start using contraception after delivery. Many women start using contraception on the sixth week following childbirth. But a significant percentage do not attend follow-up postpartum appointments and therefore end up choosing a birth control method that is not reliable. 

If you end up using an unreliable birth control method, you may well likely find yourself pregnant soon after giving birth. Which is why it is important that you attend your follow-up appointments. Your doctor can advise you on the most suitable birth control method to use. 

There are several varying birth control options. Each is different, but they are all safe. Here, we are going to discuss 11 types of birth control methods. 

Condoms

If you're not ready to use other forms of contraception you can use condoms. You can choose to use female condoms or male condoms. 

Condoms do not interfere with lactation, and they provide adequate protection against unplanned pregnancies and STI’s if used correctly.

Pills

The pill can be taken on day 21th after delivery. Although it contains progesterone, you can get estrogen from the contraceptive patch or the vaginal ring. But its important to know that any form of contraception that releases estrogen is not recommended for breastfeeding women.

So, it is the most preferred contraception for breastfeeding mothers. Besides if you can't take estrogen then this is one of the contraceptive options your doctor might recommend.

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Contraceptive implant

Generally, the implant is inserted on the sixth week postpartum, if you are already breastfeeding. 

If you are not breastfeeding, then the implant will be inserted on the third week after childbirth. It is advised, however, to get the implant inserted before you leave the hospital in case you may have difficulties following up on your postmortem checkup.

The implant releases progesterone which makes it a suitable method of birth control for breastfeeding. An implant is a long-term birth control method. It prevents pregnancies for 3-4 years.

Contraceptive injections

Your doctor may advise you to get a contraceptive injection on the 6th week of your postpartum if you are breastfeeding.  If you are not breastfeeding, you can get it anytime. But you can also choose to get it right after giving birth. With contraceptive injections, you don't have to worry about lactation suppression because it releases progesterone only which is safe for lactation. 

The most common contraceptive injection is Depo Provera and it lasts about 13 weeks. There is also Sayana Press and Noristerat. Sayana Press also lasts 13 weeks while Noristerat lasts 8 weeks. 

But one thong should be noted – it will take about a year until fertility returns after you stop to use injections.

Contraceptive patches

woman with a contraceptive patch

The contraceptive patch can be used any time after delivery if you are not breastfeeding. Once you apply it to your skin, it releases small doses of estrogen and progestin continuously, which are the two hormones that help prevent pregnancy.

The patch is very convenient to use. You should change it every week during 3 weeks and on the 4 week take a break.

Vaginal ring

The vgainl ring blocks ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus, thus providing safe protection against unwanted pregnancy.

Unlike the pill, the vaginal ring contains estrogen. It is 99.7% effective.

Diaphragms and caps

To prevent an unplanned pregnancy after delivery you may choose to use a diaphragm or a cervical cap. If you go with the diaphragm option you need to have your physician fit it for you because you may need a different size than what you'd normally use.

You also need to wait until the sixth week of your postpartum to use it. Used alone these methods don’t give good protection from pregnancies. They are best used with spermicide.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

IUD’s are known to be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. These T-shaped devices are small in size, made of plastic, and are inserted into the uterus. Your caregiver may choose to use the hormonal IUD or the copper IUD. 

A copper IUD can protect you from pregnancy for about 10 years. And hormonal IUD will work for 3-5 years.

You can have this device inserted right after childbirth (but in this case the chance of its expulsion is higher), or on the sixth week of your postpartum. If you want to get pregnant again, you can remove the device and start trying immediately.

Withdrawal

The withdrawal method is about 95% effective when done properly. Basically, it is up to your partner to withdraw or pull out right before they ejaculate.

If you are not too confident about the withdrawal method, you can use it with a different type of birth control like the pill, the vaginal ring or condoms. 

Fertility awareness method

Fertility awareness is a method where a woman monitors and records different fertility signals during her menstrual cycle to determine her fertile and infertile days and the days.

This determination can be done by observing 3 different fertility signals: length of the menstrual cycle, changes in the appearance and texture of your cervical mucus, changes in basal body temperature

Sterilization

Sterilization is a permanent form of birth control which is performed surgically. This method is ideal if you don’t intend on having any more children. 

Does breastfeeding act as a birth control method?

Yes, breastfeeding acts as a birth control method and it is actually 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But for it to be successful, you must meet these conditions:

  • You are exclusively breastfeeding and this is the only nutrition and food your baby is getting
  • Your baby is less than 24 weeks (6 month) old. 
  • You have not had your period since you gave birth. 

But once you get your child off breast milk or your period returns, you may need to use another type of birth control method.  

What if I want to get pregnant again?

If you want to get pregnant again, you need to discontinue using birth control. How long it will take before you get pregnant after you stop using birth control depends on the type of postnatal contraception you are using. 

If you are on the pill, once you stop using it, it can take about a month before you start ovulating again and will be able to conceive. If you had a birth control implant, once you remove it, your fertility should return within a month. 

With IUD’s just like the implants, once removed, your fertility should return within 30 days. However, if you are on a birth control injection, once you cease using it, it could take 6 months to a year for your fertility to return. It takes up to almost 2 years for some women to get back their fertility.

So if you plan on getting pregnant again within a year, then this would not be the best choice of birth control to use. 

Final remarks

Postnatal contraception can help you prevent closely spaced pregnancies, which is important because they have been linked to autism according to research. It has also been seen that closely spaced pregnancies increase the risk of:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Schizophrenia
  • Congenital disorders.

Furthermore, getting pregnant soon after giving birth does not give you enough time to recover and could, therefore, affect your health as well as your baby’s health. 

Research suggests that you should wait 18 months to 2 years before you conceive again to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related complications and other health issues. 

This is why postpartum contraception is important and it should be given as soon as you have given birth. Actually, most of the contraception methods can be used right after childbirth. But it is best to consult your physician, who may provide advice on the best birth control method to use. 

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