Breastfeeding and Contraception
Is breastfeeding enough to delay conceiving another baby?
I answered a recent question posed on Quora: “Is breastfeeding a natural contraceptive? If so how effective is it? Does it reduce the odds of pregnancy just slightly or really significantly?”
Breastfeeding can delay the onset of ovulation and periods, especially during the first 6 months and if your child is exclusively breast fed. That being said, breastfeeding alone is not a reliable source of contraception and you should have a contraceptive plan in place right away post deliver. Most women will begin contraceptive methods at the 6 week post-delivery appointment with their OBGYN.
When you exclusively breastfeed your baby that means you are not feeding any formula bottles, not missing or significant delaying feedings, you are feeding at night and are not giving any solid foods to your baby.
Even strictly following these guidelines will not delay ovulation and menses for every woman and you can become pregnant (and many women do) while breastfeeding. Your body can ovulate at any time postpartum and you could get pregnant if you are not using contraceptive methods. Ovulation happens before you have a menstrual cycle, so this is the problem with waiting for your first period as an alert to begin contraception.
Every woman is different and each pregnancy is different. I know many woman that have become pregnant while nursing before they had a period and I know many others that didn’t have a period until their child was completely weened from breastfeeding. Because you don’t know how your body will respond, play it safe.
Some contraceptive options that can be taken safely while breastfeeding include the mini-pill or implant (progesterone only), IUD’s such as Mirena (progesterone) or Paraguard (copper and hormone free). Barrier methods such as condoms can be used but are less effective than the previously listed methods.
Discuss options before you deliver and you will be all set for your postpartum contraception plan.
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