On our Facebook, we get a lot of messages asking how high the chances are of getting pregnant right after childbirth. Well, it's pretty high. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) warns ovulation can return even BEFORE you get your first post-birth menstruation.
So, if you want to space your pregnancies, have a postpartum birth control plan ready. While the options are especially limited if you're nursing (it can adversely affect the milk supply), you can consider the following:
Lactational Amenorrhea Method The good news is breastfeeding is a form of contraception. Pediatrician Dr. Rosanne Sugay explains nursing makes your body produce hormones that prevent ovulation. However, if you're going to rely on this method alone, you have to meet these three conditions:
You have to be less than six months postpartum, or your baby is less than six months old.
You are breastfeeding exclusively. You're feeding baby directly at the breast on demand, or every four hours to six hours daily. It also means you're not supplementing supply with formula or solid foods.
You have not gotten your period back since you've given birth.
It's a short-term option that's 98% effective -- if done right. Ob-gyn Dr. Meollo-Mateo stresses it might not be as effective beyond the first six months and if the moms cannot breastfeed directly and routinely.
Natural methods Non-hormonal methods are perfect for breastfeeding moms, but they are only effective if you do it right. You need to track your cycle, which may be challenging since your period may not return to normal just yet. The good news is tracking apps can help you, and we highly recommend you use them.
What are the natural methods?
Standard Days Method tracks your menstrual cycle with the help of a string of colored beads. You move the black rubber ring to a colored bead daily.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is your body’s temperature when you’re at rest. Ovulation causes a slight increase in basal body temperature. “You'll be most fertile during the two to three days before your temperature rises. By tracking your basal body temperature each day, you may be able to predict when you'll ovulate,” says Mayo Clinic.
Billings Ovulation Method (BOM) relies on tracking the vaginal discharge--the whitish mucus you see in your underwear. The woman’s most fertile days are those when the mucus is stretchy and slippery.
Sympto-Thermal Method combines BBT and BOM. It tracks a woman’s most fertile days by observing her temperature and her vaginal mucus every day.
Withdrawal is a natural method, but it's not a reliable one. "There is a greater risk of getting pregnant due to pre-ejaculatory sperm," Dr. Meollo-Mateo stressed.
Barrier Methods Using condoms is a fool-proof way to prevent pregnancy after giving birth. They're affordable, easy to use, and protects you from sexually transmitted diseases. Female condoms, such as diaphragms and cervical caps, are inserted into the vagina, so wait until after six weeks postpartum before you use them to give your uterus time to heal.
The Pill Don't take combination pills which contain both the hormones progestin and estrogen. Estrogen is not harmful to your baby, but it can decrease a new mom's milk supply, explains ob-gyn Dr. Cristina Perez of Parents. If you insist on taking the pill, opt for progestin-only pills (POPs). Doctors may prescribe them six to eight weeks post-birth to prevent new moms from developing blood clots.
Since POPs contains a low dose of only one hormone, they are slightly less effective compared to combination pills, but it still works. You need to take the pills as instructed to ensure its effectiveness, which, again, may be challenging if you're busy with your new baby.
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Intra-uterine device (IUD) A hormonal IUD releases a small amount of progestin into the uterus to prevent fertilization and implantation. Since it only uses the hormone progestin, it's safe for nursing moms. Another breastfeeding-friendly IUD is non-hormonal copper IUDs. The copper prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg.
IUDs are effective and can last from three, five, or even 10 years (copper IUD). Once inserted into your uterus, you can forget about it. If you want to get pregnant again, you just have the IUD removed. Some women may experience light menstrual flow or even no period at all. Take note: the ACOG reports there's a five percent risk the IUD may be displaced outside the uterus, which is a serious condition.
Implants/Injectibles These two types of hormonal contraceptives use progestin, so it's safe for breastfeeding moms. Like IUDs, one implant can last for up to three years. For shots or injectibles, you'd need to have them every three months or so.
A word of caution: spotting, bleeding, and irregular menstrual periods are possible side effects. Progestin-only shots may also affect milk supply. Ongoing research also shows that progestin-only injectibles have been linked to a temporarily reduced bone mineral density in nursing moms.
Permanent Birth Control It's only an option for women or couples who are certain they don't want to have any more kids. Like vasectomy, having your tubes tied is irreversible. It does not affect your milk supply, but recovering from a major surgery may affect your breastfeeding journey.
While you may certainly choose a nursing-friendly birth control method that will fit your lifestyle, remembeto check with your doctor first before starting on one.