Wondering about the safest and most effective contraception methods for moms? We’ve broken down 10 popular picks.

By Laurie Tarkan
Laura Ljungkvist

Sticking with your old contraceptive method seems like the easiest postpartum solution, but you may find that your previous pick doesn’t mesh with motherhood. Busy moms might forget to take a daily pill, for example, and some hormonal methods could lower breast milk supply

So how is a mom supposed to prevent unwanted pregnancy? We’ve broken down 10 popular birth control options to find the best contraceptive for you. 

Combination Pills

Birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin. These hormones prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus so sperm can't reach your uterus. You usually take an active pill for 21 days and get your period the following week; however, some varieties have you pop an active pill daily for 24 days, which gives you a shorter, lighter period. Fertility returns 1 to 2 months after discontinuing the pill.

When To Use: You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow; You're thinking "maybe baby"; You've found your perfect family size

Benefits of Combination Pills: No fumbling for protection during steamy moments. Some brands ease PMS symptoms (milder cramps! fewer pimples!) and make the monthly blues more bearable. Combination pills can also reduce your risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colon cancer.

Drawbacks of Combination Pills: You must remember to take the pill every day. Also, some pills have PMS-like side effects—such as acne, bloating, and moodiness—so it may take some trial and error to find the best formula for you. All varieties can raise your risk of life-threatening blood clots, though the odds are small if you don't have other risk factors (like a smoking habit, a family history of blood clots, or migraines with auras—in these cases, your ob-gyn may not recommend the pill at all). 

Extended Pills

First there was Seasonale and its spin-off Seasonique, combination pills you take for three months, making your period a four-times-a-year event. Newer on the scene is Amethyst, which eliminates your period altogether, since you take an active pill every day. Fertility returns 2 to 3 months after discontinuing the pill.

When To Use: You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow; You're thinking "maybe baby"; You've found your perfect family size

Benefits of Extended Pills: Extended pills can provide major relief for women who experience intense cramps, heavy bleeding, and other severe menstrual symptoms.

Drawbacks of Extended Pills: Many women experience break-through bleeding during the first few months, but it tapers off with time. Extended pills have the same health risks as traditional combination pills.

The Mini Pill

This progestin-only pill works by thinning the uterine lining and thickening cervical mucus to prevent fertilization. It’s a great birth control option for breastfeeding moms. You take an active pill for 28 days, so you receive a continuous flow of hormones. Fertility returns 1 to 2 months after going off the pill.

When To Use: You're breastfeeding or sensitive to estrogen. 

Benefits of the Mini Pill: The mini pill is an ideal choice for breastfeeding moms who are concerned about estrogen's possible effect on milk production. Your period may get lighter or disappear.

Drawbacks of the Mini Pill: You need to take it at the same time every day within a two- to three-hour window or you risk getting pregnant. The mini pill causes more irregular bleeding than combination pills do, but it usually tapers off within a few months.

The Patch (Ortho Evra/Xulane)

Once a week for three weeks, stick the beige patch on your upper back or arm, lower abs, or butt, where it releases a continuous flow of estrogen and progestin into your bloodstream. You go patch-free during week four to get your period. Fertility returns 1 to 2 months post-removal.

When To Use: You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow; You're thinking "maybe baby"; You've found your perfect family size 

Benefits of the Patch: You can slap it on once a week and forget about it.

Drawbacks of the Patch: The patch may cause minor skin irritation, but only about 3 percent of women quit because of it. The risk of blood clots may be higher than that of some birth control pills. Studies found an increased rate of unintended pregnancies in women who weigh 198 pounds or more.

Implant (Nexplanon)

Your doctor inserts a flexible matchstick-size rod under the skin of your upper arm, where it secretes progestin for three years. Fertility returns 1 to 3 months post-removal.

When To Use: You're breastfeeding; You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow; You've found your perfect family size

Benefits of the Implant: It’s a convenient, low-maintenance option if you want to space out your pregnancies for several years or if you've completed your family. Because it contains progestin only, it may be a good birth control for breastfeeding (once your baby is 6 months old). It's also discreet: The implant is usually invisible beneath your skin.

Drawbacks of the Implant: A doctor must insert and remove the implant, and the procedure carries a small risk of complications (you may also scar). Your periods may be irregular, and obese women might need to replace the implant every two years.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

You’ve got two options: a hormone-based IUD (Kyleena, Liletta, Mirena, and Skyla) or a copper IUD (ParaGard). Both types are small T-shaped devices your doctor inserts inside your uterus. ParaGard releases copper, which inhibits sperm movement and implantation, and lasts for about 10 years. The others secrete progestin and last for three-six years, depending on the IUD you choose. Fertility returns 2 months post-removal.

When To Use: You're breastfeeding; You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow; You've found your perfect family size

Benefits of the IUD: It's super convenient, which may be why IUDs are one of the top contraception methods in the world. Hormonal IUDs may decrease your flow (while ParaGard may increase it).

Drawbacks of the IUD: You could have break-through bleeding in the first few months. IUDs aren't recommended for women with a history of ectopic pregnancy or who have pelvic inflammatory disease.

Injectable (Depo-Provera)

You get a shot of progestin in your butt or arm once every three months; you or your doctor can do it. Fertility returns 9 to 12 months after your last Depo-Provera shot.

When To Use: You're breastfeeding; You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow

Benefits of the Injectable: You only have to deal with it four times a year.

Drawbacks of the Injectable: Depo-Provera isn't a popular choice for several reasons: It can cause heavy break-through bleeding and weight gain, and may even increase your risk of osteoporosis if you use it for more than two years.

Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)

You insert this hormone-laced flexible ring in your vagina once a month and leave it there for three weeks, where it releases progestin and very low-dose estrogen directly into the vaginal walls. Remove it to get your period during week four, then insert a new ring. Fertility returns 1 to 2 months post-removal.

When To Use: You don't want to get pregnant tomorrow; You're thinking "maybe baby"; You've found your perfect family size

Benefits of the Vaginal Ring: Insertion is a cinch. In fact, it's effective even when it's not precisely positioned. Most women can't feel the ring, though there's a small chance your partner may notice it during sex.

Drawbacks of the Vaginal Ring: It can cost twice as much as the pill, and it comes with the same blood-clot risk as combination pills.

Diaphragm

A diaphragm fits over your cervix to prevent sperm from traveling to your uterus; you have to use spermicidal cream or jelly with it each time you have sex. You can leave it in for six hours after lovemaking. Fertility returns immediately.

When To Use: You're breastfeeding; You're thinking "maybe baby"

Benefits of Diaphragms: It's hormone-free and doesn't necessarily interrupt sex, since it can be inserted up to six hours beforehand.

Drawbacks of Diaphragms: Using a diaphragm can be messy and high-maintenance; plus, spermicide may irritate sensitive vaginal tissue. You need to be fitted by a doctor and possibly refitted periodically, especially after giving birth vaginally.

Condom

You know the deal: Condoms create a physical barrier between you and your partner's sperm. Fertility returns immediately.

When To Use: You're breastfeeding; You're thinking "maybe baby"

Benefits of Condoms: Using condoms doesn't require taking hormones, seeing your doctor, or a lot of fuss. Plus, it's safe for breastfeeding moms.

Drawbacks of Condoms: Lack of spontaneity during sex.

Parents Magazine
Advertisement

Comments

Be the first to comment!