Life After Birth: Birth Control Options
Unless you’re breaking some rules that are very strategically and safely in place, it’s not probable that you’ll get pregnant for the first six weeks after having a baby. But what birth control options are available and recommended once you have been cleared by your doctor for sex?First, let's back up. In my experience, it has taken well over the initial six weeks to be healed enough to even consider sex. After my first baby, it was about eight weeks and with my second, it was close to four months! Keep in mind that everybody’s healing experiences are different and just because you “can” have sex after six weeks, doesn’t mean you have to or that your body is automatically ready! You can read more about my postpartum healing here.
Cycle TrackingI’ll be honest; this method of birth control scares the living daylights out of me. Taking your temperature each day and relying on an app to tell you whether or not you’re fertile for the next 24 hours sounds a little too risky for my tastes. But I won't overlook it as a birth control option here because I have friends who rely on this method and love the non-hormonal aspect it provides.
CondomsSpeaking of non-hormonal methods: condoms are a pretty popular choice when it comes to birth control – especially postpartum when a lot of moms don’t want to deal with added hormones entering their body during this already taxing time.
MinipillAt your six week postpartum check-up, if the doctor says things are healed up enough to go for it, AND you are breastfeeding AND you are wanting hormonal assistance, he/she will likely prescribe you the “minipill”. The minipill is an oral contraceptive that contains a small (lower than other birth controls) amount of progestin and no estrogen. The reason for no estrogen is because it has been known to lower the milk supply in nursing moms.
Lactational Amenorrhea MethodThis is a fancy way of saying that some believe breastfeeding your baby is a method of birth control in itself. And while this isn’t completely false, it is not recommended that you rely solely on breastfeeding as a form of birth control because it is indeed possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. Many women do not experience regular periods or any periods at all for a time during their breastfeeding experiences, so they assume they are not ovulating, but pregnancy can and often does occur during this time.
When to switch to a regular dose of birth control?Many moms wait until they are done breastfeeding completely to switch from the minipill or get back on birth control all together. However, I have it on good authority that the time to switch to a regular dose of birth control is when you are down to 3-4 feedings in a 24 hour period. This is regardless of whether your period has started back up or not. As you can probably guess, the time period for this varies for every mother. As for me, my babies were between 9-12 months when their feedings dropped down to 3 or 4 times a day, so that’s when I made the switch!
Changes in menstrual cycle after pregnancy and birth
Something to consider and keep in mind is the fact that you just went through pregnancy and the birth of a child. Your hormones have been ALL over the place, your body and its organs have stretched and grown (sometimes permanently), and the chances of your cycle and periods being the same post-baby as they were pre-baby are not very likely. Whether these differences are slight or drastic, they will likely be there. SO, you may find that the Intrauterine Device (IUD) or pill you were on before pregnancy may not have the same affect now as it did then.
The good news is this is not an uncommon occurrence, so your doctor or health care provider will be ready for the task of figuring out what birth control method will work best for you. This may take some time and testing out a few different options, but hopefully you’ll find something that works great for you in a somewhat timely manner. And it's important while you're jumping around from one birth control to the other to use a back-up birth control option, like condoms, for the first two weeks of each new prescription. That way, you're protected while your body is figuring out new dosages and getting situated!