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Birth Control & Breastfeeding

Have you heard that breastfeeding is a great form of birth control? If so, you’ve heard half the story. Here’s what every nursing mom needs to know about birth control after Baby.

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Hi, I'm Kimberly Durdin. I'm a board certified lactation consultant, and I've been helping moms breastfeed for over 20 years. Some moms have heard that breastfeeding can prevent them from getting pregnant too soon, and they wonder if that's true. Under certain conditions, breastfeeding can prevent a mom from getting pregnant again. The lactational amenorrheic method of birth control is actually a way to prevent pregnancy when you're breastfeeding your baby. So what does that mean? Lactational amenorrheic method. Basically, when moms breastfeed exclusively, they're going to have a period of time when they are amenorrheic, which means that they do not ovulate, and therefore, they do not have a period. In the first 6 months postpartum, the lactational amenorrheic method of pregnancy prevention is 98.5 to 99.5 percent effective in moms who are breastfeeding exclusively. That means their baby is not receiving any other milk besides their mother's milk and that baby is taking mom's milk directly from the breasts. So mom-- if mom is pumping, giving formula, or other foods, it actually reduces the effectiveness of the lactational amenorrheic method. The other conditions that should be in place is that the baby is under 6 months old. Also, your baby should not go any longer than 4 hours between breastfeeding during the day and 6 hours between breastfeeding at night in order for the lactational amenorrheic method to remain highly effective. If you're going for longer periods of time without nursing, again, it reduces the effectiveness of the lactational amenorrheic method. The last condition that needs to be in place is that moms have not experienced any postpartum bleeding after 56 days postpartum. Any bleeding mom has had before 56 days postpartum can be ignored. We don't consider that a menstrual period. Most of the times when mom does have her first cycle, she's not ovulating during that very first cycle, but many times, the cycles after that, mom will be ovulating. So once mom's period returns after 56 days postpartum, we consider her more likely to get pregnant. Moms who are breastfeeding exclusively many times do not get their period for at least the first 6 months postpartum as a general rule. There are many birth control methods, however, that are also compatible with breastfeeding. Moms are concerned, "Can I take the pill? Can I take any other type of birth control medication that my doctor will prescribe for me?" When we're talking about the birth control pill, we actually prefer moms take a low-dose or mini-pill. It's actually more compatible with breastfeeding. Any of the barrier methods that people use for birth control are perfectly compatible with breastfeeding. You might wanna talk to your doctor about other birth control methods and whether or not they're compatible with breastfeeding. Some of the birth control methods that we do have concerns about are injectable form such as Depo-Provera. Depo-Provera is sometimes given directly after birth, and studies have shown that that can actually reduce the mom's milk supply and make it very difficult for her to rebound from that reduction in milk supply. This is an injectable birth control form, and it cannot be taken away once it's injected into mom. Usually, once you're given Depo-Provera, the effectiveness lasts for about 3 months. So during that time, if there's been an effect on your milk supply, there's no way that it can be reversed. So we don't recommend that moms who are breastfeeding use Depo-Provera as a birth control unless they wait at least 6 weeks postpartum. If moms get Depo-Provera at 6 weeks postpartum, usually, we don't see a detrimental effect to mom's milk supply. Other forms of birth control such as the patch, the ring, etcetera, can affect milk supply, either increasing milk supply or decreasing milk supply. If moms notice a decrease in their milk supply after starting one of these birth control methods, they can simply stop using that birth control method and ask their doctor to prescribe them something different that will work better in their situation. I hope this gives you a place to start when you're choosing a particular birth control method to use in the postpartum period. For more information though, make sure you speak to your doctor or a board certified lactation consultant so that you can talk about your individual concerns. Thank you for watching.