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Pacing Yourself: How to Choose Postpartum Birth Control

September 4, 2012

It felt great to toss out your birth control method when you were trying to conceive, and even better when you finally got that positive pregnancy test result! But now that you’re expecting a baby, you may be thinking about planning your family, and how to pace yourself so that you have some time to enjoy your new addition before trying for another. The method of birth control you choose postpartum may depend on a variety of factors, so read on for more information and consult your ob/gyn to begin thinking about your choices now.

If you’re accustomed to using hormonal birth control, your options may be limited if you plan on breastfeeding. Methods that utilize estrogen may not be the best choice for breastfeeding mothers, as they may affect the amount of milk your produce. Other hormonal methods, such as the mini-pill, Depo-Provera shots, or Implanon (an implantable rod that prevents conception) may be better options for you if you expect to breastfeed. Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are also safe for breastfeeding mothers. ParaGuard is a non-hormonal IUD that lasts for ten years and a hormonal IUD, Mirena, contains progestin and lasts for five years. Either method can be removed at any time if you decide to try to conceive again. Your doctor can advise you as to how soon after pregnancy you might be able to start using these methods, and how soon you can expect your fertility to return after discontinuing them.

Barrier methods are safe to use whether or not you are nursing, and one of these might be a good intermediate choice until you can begin using a more long-term method. Condoms may be used as soon as you and your partner are ready to begin having sex. Other methods such as diaphragms and cervical caps and shields can be fitted by your doctor, who can help to determine when you can safely begin using them.

Some new mothers choose more natural methods of conception, such as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) which is highly effective if you are exclusively breastfeeding, have not had a period postpartum, and have given birth within six months. Other moms practice the Fertility Awareness Method, though this poses a challenge postpartum, when your cycles have not yet regulated and your basal body temperature may be difficult to determine when your daily schedule is a bit haphazard with a newborn at home!

Talk to your ob/gyn about your choices now, so that you have a game plan ready when you and your partner do decide that you’re ready to begin having sex again postpartum. Knowing that you have a plan in place can bring you some peace of mind.

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