Birth control choices after you have a baby

Birth control choices after you have a baby

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At some point during your pregnancy, you'll want to talk to your practitioner about what kind of contraception will work best for you after you give birth. You may be able to resume using the birth control method you used in the past, or you may decide that something else would work better. In any case, it's a good idea to have a plan in place when you're ready to start having sex again. Here's a summary of your choices.

Barrier methods

Barrier methods physically prevent sperm from reaching the egg. They don't affect your hormones, interfere with lactation, or have any significant side effects.

Condoms for men: The male condom is a thin tube-like sheath made from latex or polyurethane that fits over the erect penis and traps semen during sex. Condoms don't require a physical exam or fitting, and they offer substantial protection against HIV and many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Unlike many contraceptives, you and your partner can use condoms as soon as you're ready to become sexually active again. So even if you don't intend to rely on condoms for the long term, you can use them while you're waiting to start your preferred birth control method.

Find out more about condoms for men

Condoms for women: The female condom is a thin polyurethane pouch that's inserted into your vagina before sex to prevent pregnancy and guard against exposure to STIs. Soft rings at either end hold the pouch in place. Female condoms don't require a physical exam or fitting, and you can use them as soon as you're ready to become sexually active again.

Find out more about condoms for women

Diaphragm: The diaphragm is a shallow dome-shaped device that you partially fill with spermicide and insert into your vagina before sex. It keeps sperm from passing through your cervix.

Your caregiver can try fitting you for a diaphragm at your six-week postpartum visit. Even if you've used a diaphragm before, you'll have to be fitted because you may need a different size after being pregnant and giving birth.

Find out more about the diaphragm

Cervical cap: The cervical cap, FemCap, is a silicone cup shaped like a sailor's hat.. You partially fill the cap with spermicide and insert it into your vagina before sex. The device fits over your cervix and blocks sperm from entering the uterus.

You'll need to wait ten weeks before using FemCap. It's available by prescription.

Find out more about the cervical cap

Hormonal methods

These birth control methods use synthetic hormones to suppress ovulation, thin the uterine lining so the egg can't implant there, and thicken cervical mucus to block sperm from reaching the egg. They're available by prescription only and are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, although they offer no protection against STIs.

You must wait four weeks after delivery to start using methods that use estrogen, such as the combination birth control pill, the ring, and the patch, because estrogen increases your risk for blood clots during the early postpartum weeks. These methods are not recommended for nursing moms until their milk is well-established because estrogen may reduce the quantity and quality of breast milk.

The mini-pill: The mini-pill is an oral contraceptive that contains a small amount of progestin. The pills come in packs of 28, and you take one pill every day so that you're getting a steady dose of the hormone. The mini-pill must be taken at the same time each day.

The mini-pill is a good alternative for women who want to use oral contraceptives but who are breastfeeding or can't take estrogen for some other reason. If you're not exclusively breastfeeding, you can start taking the mini-pill right after delivery. If your baby is taking nothing but breast milk, it may be best to wait until six weeks after delivery to start. By that time, your milk supply should be well established and your baby will be more mature.

Find out more about the mini-pill

The Pill: The combination birth control pill, commonly known as the Pill, is an oral contraceptive that contains estrogen and progesterone. With most brands, you take one pill every day for 21 days and then take nothing (or a "reminder" pill that contains no hormones) for the next seven.

Find out more about the Pill

The ring: The birth control ring (NuvaRing) is a flexible, transparent ring you insert into your vagina at the beginning of your cycle. Once inside, the ring releases a continuous low dose of estrogen and progestin. You have to insert a new ring every 28 days.

Find out more about the ring

The patch: The birth control patch (Ortho Evra) is a thin, beige square that you apply to your skin like an adhesive bandage. The patch then releases a continuous low dose of estrogen and progestin. You apply a new patch once a week for three consecutive weeks and then go without a patch for a week before starting the cycle again.

Find out more about the patch

The shot: The birth control shot (Depo-Provera) is an injection of progestin you get every three months. The shot appeals to some women who want a highly effective method of contraception but don't want (or can't use) an IUD, can't take estrogen, or have trouble remembering to take pills. However, it's not a good method for women who plan to start trying to conceive in the next few of years because it can take more than a year after your last shot for your fertility to return.

Many experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers wait six weeks after giving birth to start this method, although some suggest that women who aren't exclusively breastfeeding can start at three weeks postpartum.

Find out more about the shot

The implant: Implanon, the only implantable birth control method available in the United States, is a flexible rod about the size of a matchstick that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm where it continually releases small amounts of progestin.

Once implanted, it is highly effective and can remain in place for up to three years. Your fertility returns soon after the implant is removed. You can have it inserted three weeks after delivery if you're not exclusively breastfeeding and four weeks after if you are.

Find out more about the implant

Intrauterine devices

An IUD is a small T-shaped device made of flexible plastic that's inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider. There are two types of IUDs currently available in the United States. One uses copper and the other uses the synthetic hormone progestin. They last from three to twelve years.

IUDs provide effective, long-term, reversible protection, and they're safe for nursing moms. You can have one inserted right after delivery if you wish. IUDs are not recommended for women who are at high risk for STIs.

Find out more about IUDs

Natural methods

These are behavioral techniques for preventing pregnancy. They work best if you're very organized and disciplined. They cost nothing and cause no side effects but offer no protection against STIs.

Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM): This technique is based on the fact that breastfeeding delays the return of fertility after delivery. LAM is 98 percent effective if you fulfill all of its conditions: You're exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you still haven't gotten your period, and you gave birth less than six months ago.

Find out more about LAM

Fertility awareness methods (FAM):

These methods teach you to observe patterns in your monthly cycle so you can predict which days you may be fertile and which days you won't be. Some versions require you to observe physical changes associated with fertility, such as fluctuations in your basal body temperature and changes in the texture of your cervical mucus.

Fertility awareness methods present specific challenges for postpartum mothers. For example, you need to be able to measure your basal body temperature at the same time each morning after at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Find out more about FAM


These procedures are considered permanent methods of birth control. While reversals are sometimes possible, they're expensive, complicated, and only a minority of men and women go on to conceive again. Choose this option only if you're 100 percent sure you don't want to have any more children. These procedures won't affect your hormones, sex drive, or lactation.

Vasectomy: A vasectomy is a safe and highly effective operation designed to make a man sterile. A doctor cuts or blocks the two tubes — called the vas deferens — that carry sperm from the testes to the pouch in the scrotum that holds the semen prior to ejaculation. (The sperm is later reabsorbed by the body.)

Men who get vasectomies can still have sex and ejaculate. Their semen won't contain any sperm, however, so it can't fertilize an egg and cause a pregnancy.

Find out more about vasectomy

Female sterilization: There is a surgical and a nonsurgical option.

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which a doctor cauterizes, cuts, or clips a woman's fallopian tubes so that the egg can't meet the sperm. You may have this procedure done during delivery if you're having a c-section or within 48 hours of a vaginal delivery. Otherwise, you must wait six weeks to have it done.

After six weeks postpartum, there's another option, known as Essure, in which implants are inserted into the fallopian tubes by way of your vagina.

Some states require you to wait a certain amount of time after signing a consent form, so if you want to consider sterilization at the time of your delivery, discuss it with your provider well before your due date.

Find out more about female sterilization

If your method fails: Emergency contraception

If your regular contraceptive method fails you or you forget to use it or use it incorrectly, using emergency contraception can significantly reduce your chances of getting pregnant. Emergency contraceptive pills are the most commonly used method. (Alternatively, you may have a copper IUD inserted to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.)

Depending on which regular method of birth control you're going to use, you might consider buying a pack of EC pills so you'll have them immediately available in case you need them. The sooner you use emergency contraception after unprotected sex, the more likely that it'll be effective.

Find out more about emergency contraception

Watch the video: Contraceptives 101 (May 2022).