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What to know about birth control after pregnancy

Alanna Nunez writer headshot By | November 15, 2019
Medically reviewed by Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D.

Becoming a new parent can be overwhelming, especially for new moms: You’ve just undergone a major physical transformation (and major abdominal surgery, if you underwent a C-section). You’re probably sleep-deprived and in pain. On top of that, you’re now completely responsible for a brand-new human being who probably finds the whole thing just as nerve-wracking as you do. 

Suffice to say, you’ve got a lot on your mind. However, there is one important thing you may want to consider: birth control. Whether you think of yourself as one-and-done or you plan to give your baby a sibling in the future, some form of birth control will probably play an important role in your near future. Below, a few things experts want you to know about it:

You can get pregnant again—even if you’re breastfeeding.

“So many new moms think, ‘Oh, I’m nursing, so I can’t get pregnant,’ but it’s definitely not true,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a New York-based OB-GYN. OB-GYN Mary Jane Minkin, MD, agrees, saying that “it happens all the time.” 

In other words, the myth of breastfeeding as birth control is just that… a myth. The confusion may stem from the fact that if you’re nursing, you may not get your period until you stop; however, technically, you’re still ovulating. If you’re not looking to get pregnant again immediately, you’ll definitely want to stock up on some form of birth control after pregnancy. 

It’s also worth noting that experts recommend you space out your pregnancies; the Mayo Clinic notes that getting pregnant within six months of giving birth may increase your risk of premature birth, placental abruption, and low birth weight in babies.  

What are the best birth control options while breastfeeding?

You may want to avoid estrogen-containing pills. Why? Both Dr. Minkin and Dr. Dweck caution that estrogen can decrease your milk supply, so if you’re exclusively nursing, a better option may be progesterone-only pills, which “won’t dry up your milk supply, and are perfectly safe and healthy for lactating moms,” Dr. Dweck says. 

Nexplanon is a set-it-and-forget it form of progesterone-only contraception. It is implanted in your upper arm and is effective for three years. 

None of these options sounding quite right? You might want to consider a barrier method, such as condoms or a diaphragm. You have a plethora of healthy, safe options.

RELATED: How hormonal birth control can affect breastfeeding

How soon can you get birth control after having a baby?

Does the idea of taking a pill every day make you break out into a cold sweat? Dr. Minkin says the IUD can be a great alternative. “They can be put in right after delivery, too,” she adds. If you’re a mom-to-be who’s reading and know that the IUD is right for you, it may be worth talking to your doctor about whether it’d be possible to schedule an insertion after labor. The IUD comes in two forms: progesterone-only (Mirena, Liletta) and non-hormonal (the Paragard) and are good for up to five and 10 years, respectively.

It (mostly) comes down to lifestyle preferences. 

However, there are a couple of important exceptions: one, moms who’ve been diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) or another mood disorder “may do better avoiding methods that deliver a substantial amount of progesterone to the bloodstream, like the Depo-Provera shot or the progesterone-only pill,” Dr. Minkin says. 

A 2016 study that studied more than a million Danish women found that there may be an association between hormonal birth control and depression, with “higher risks being associated with progesterone-only forms of birth control, including the IUD,” Monique Tello, MD, wrote at Harvard Health Publishing

Another one: If you suffered from preeclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid combination birth control (pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone), Dr. Dweck says, “because it can worsen high blood pressure.” 

Don’t let this scare you off! Be honest with your doctor about any symptoms you might experience, and he or she can help you come up with a postpartum birth control option that’s right for you—and once that’s out of the way, you’ll have more time to spend cuddling your newborn bundle of joy.