Although being pregnant again may be the last thing on your mind when you are first breastfeeding and getting to know your new baby, at some point you will need to consider how you will handle birth control. There are many factors to consider, and it is good to think about what you will do before you and your partner begin to have sex. Talking with your partner before you begin to have sex will also give you time to share what is important to both of you, how you both think and feel about the possibility of you becoming pregnant again, and what birth control options will be best.
It is unlikely that you will become pregnant if you are breastfeeding on demand and your menstrual cycle hasn’t returned, but it is possible. Even if you are open to becoming pregnant again soon, consider giving yourself enough time to heal. It takes quite a while for your body to replenish after pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Also consider how a pregnancy will affect breastfeeding, and how long you plan to breastfeed your new baby.
The options for birth control don’t really change when you are breastfeeding. However, how your body reacts to different birth control options can be different - and those differences can impact the effectiveness of that birth control option. It’s important to be aware of these factors so that you and your partner can use the best option for you both.
NFP - Natural Family Planning
Although this is the method preferred by many mamas, and the awareness you build of your body and it’s rhythms are wonderful and insightful, NFP isn’t a very reliable method of birth control when you are breastfeeding on demand. The cues that you use to track fertility change when you are exclusively breastfeeding. The hormones related to breastfeeding change your basal body temperature and cervical mucus. Even after your period returns, NFP still isn’t a very accurate method while you are breastfeeding. Of course, you can begin to track your cycle when you begin menstruating again; however, if you don’t want to become pregnant, you will need to use another option.
These methods of birth control have a high effectiveness rate and are all relatively easy to use. What can be problematic with these methods is ensuring that you will use them every time. When you are a weary new mother and want the comfort, connection, and sexy, loving energy that connecting with your partner can bring, it is easy to forget to use a barrier method. Be honest with yourself about this and talk to your partner so that you can make plans to ensure that you use your chosen method of birth control. Condoms are the most readily available barrier method, and are often the cheapest. Female condoms are also an option, although they have a lower effectiveness rate. Birth control sponges and diaphragms are also barrier methods. You can combines sponges and diaphragms with a spermicide in order to increase their effectiveness.
Although hormonal options are tolerated well by many women, they can impact breastfeeding and should be considered carefully. The most common hormonal birth control, the birth control pill, is easy to use. There are also methods such as the vaginal ring, shots, patches, and implants. All of these methods have different levels of effectiveness, but overall, they are very effective. However, keep in mind that many of these methods work by using hormones that make your body think it is pregnant in order to suppress ovulation. Because of this, these birth control options can lower your breast milk supply . You should steer clear of these methods for the first couple of months while you are building your milk supply. If you decide that one of these methods is best for you, discuss the possible implications with your care provider so that you are prepared for the potential effects.
IUDs (intrauterine devices) are a very effective method of birth control that come in hormonal and non-hormonal options. The non-hormonal kind of IUD is a good option for breastfeeding mothers. It starts working right away, you don’t have to remember to use it after it is placed, and it can last for many years. Hormonal IUDs carry some of the same risks as other hormonal birth control in terms of milk supply and should be used with caution.
Sex may be the last thing on your mind when you resting, healing, and bonding with your new baby. However, when you are ready, sexuality can be an enriching and wonderful way to connect with your partner. It can also be very affirming to experience your sexuality when you have been focused on your new baby and wrapped up in your new-baby bubble.
Discuss birth control options with your care provider and partner, and make an educated decision about what choice is best for you. In most cases, your care provider will clear you to begin having sex again after your six-week postpartum appointment. But, if you don’t feel ready to have sex again at this point, listen to yourself and your body. Sex can be a wonderful part of your life as a breastfeeding mother, but only when you are fully ready. Respect yourself, respect your partner, and respect the power of your sexuality!