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Birth Control for Breastfeeding Moms

a hand holding an IUD with their thumb, pointer finger and middle finger

Just had a baby? Congrats and good luck! Now, what birth control are you using?

Now that your bundle of joy has arrived, it’s time to snuggle up with that new-baby smell and settle into being a mom. However, if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding in a very particular way, you can ovulate (or release an egg) as soon as three weeks after giving birth. Because of this, it’s a good idea to use some form of birth control so your body can have a break between pregnancies (which is the best thing for your body at that time). Here are some popular options for new moms, and remember: the methods noted below, as well as all the other methods of birth control, are available for free or at a low-cost at your nearest The Right Time health center.

The IUD: a new mom’s best friend

Although you may think of your nursing pillow as your new best friend, consider adding an IUD (intrauterine device) to the list. There are currently five IUDs available in the U.S.: Mirena, Paragard (which has no hormones), Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena. An IUD can be placed immediately after you deliver (even in the delivery room!) or at your post-partum check-up and you can get pregnant again as soon as they are removed.

The implant: four years of freedom

The contraceptive implant is another nice option. The tiny 1½ inch rod is inserted just under the skin in your upper arm by your doctor and keeps you 99.95% protected against pregnancy for four years. It can also be put in before you even leave the hospital or at your post-partum check-up.

The shot: after giving birth, shots may seem like no big deal

The three-month contraceptive shot (Depo-Provera) provides highly effective protection against pregnancy as long as you get it on time every three months. One more factor to note; the shot is the only birth control method that causes some women to gain weight, so if losing your pregnancy pounds as soon as possible is a priority, this may not be the best option.

But I’ve only ever taken the pill…

Even if you’re already comfortable using the pill, patch, or ring, they may not be the best choice right after birth. Combined hormonal contraceptives (with estrogen and progestin) put you at slightly higher risk for blood clots within your blood vessels, and the first two months after giving birth are also when women are naturally at higher risk of having a blood clot. So, if you are really committed to using the pill, patch or ring, you have two choices:

  1. You can wait until your post-partum check-up about six weeks after birth to start using the pill, patch, or ring. That means using a condom or other method if you have sex before your check-up.
  2. You can take a progestin-only pill, a.k.a. the mini-pill, starting right after birth. The mini-pill doesn’t affect breastfeeding. Mini-pills don’t have estrogen, which is the ingredient that causes increased risk of blood clots in other combined hormonal contraceptives. However, mini-pills have to be taken at the same time every day to be effective. With a new baby around, remembering to do anything at the same time every day is about as likely as getting a good night’s sleep!

There are lots of great options. Talk to a provider at your nearest The Right Time health center to find a method that will work well for you as a new mom.

Updated March 2020

Jessica Morse is an ob/gyn at UNC where she works with residents providing a full spectrum of reproductive health care. Her main research interest is making sure women get the birth control they want, when they want it. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and silly 5-year-old son, where they spend weekends hiking, hanging out at playgrounds, and exploring the Bull City.

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Our partner health centers are focused on you. They provide access to all methods of birth control and free or low-cost birth control to those who need it.