8 Facts About Postpartum Birth Control

What you should know before choosing a birth control method.

Here are eight important -- and somewhat surprising -- facts about postpartum birth control:

1. A new mom can get pregnant before she's even gotten her period. Since ovulation occurs two weeks before menstruation, a new mom should not wait until she's gotten her period again to begin using birth control.

2. Just because a woman is breastfeeding does not mean she can't get pregnant. There are certain criteria that a new mom's breastfeeding patterns must meet before she can rely on breastfeeding as a form of birth control. Unless she is breastfeeding at least every four hours during the day and six hours at night, providing more than 90 to 95 percent of her baby's food through breast milk, and planning to breastfeed for more than six months, her risk of getting pregnant is merely reduced -- not enough to rely on breastfeeding as a form of birth control.

3. Nonbreastfeeding women ovulate for the first time, on average, 45 days after giving birth. A new mom who chooses not to breastfeed will usually ovulate between the 25th and 72nd days after giving birth. Forty-five days is the average.

4. Some forms of birth control require several weeks to be effective. This, combined with the fact that a woman may begin ovulating as early as 25 days after giving birth, indicates that a new mom should begin thinking about birth control methods as soon as possible after having the baby -- or ideally, during pregnancy.

5. Women who are breastfeeding should not take birth control pills containing estrogen. While there is a great deal of debate about whether hormonal supplements affect breast milk, it's generally agreed that if a breastfeeding mom decides to go with a hormonal form of birth control, she should stay away from supplements containing estrogen if possible and stick with a progestin-only pill.

6. Hormonal methods of birth control are generally more effective than barrier methods. Hormonal forms of birth control such as the pill, a patch, the IUD, and Depo-Provera injections offer new moms a 99 percent effective rate. Barrier methods, such as a diaphragm, condoms, or spermicide offer less protection -- an 85 percent effective rate.

7. A woman should be refitted for a diaphragm after giving birth. Since childbirth can affect the size and shape of a woman's vagina, diaphragm resizing should be done before resuming intercourse after pregnancy.

8. Tubal ligation, also known as getting your tubes tied, is the most popular form of birth control for women in the United States. Eighteen percent of women in the U.S. have opted for tubal ligation after deciding that their family was complete. This procedure can be performed as early as a day after giving birth.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Reviewed 11/02 by Elizabeth Stein, CNM

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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