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Postpartum Questions: Birth Control after Pregnancy

Just had a baby or will be soon? You’ve probably got lots of questions about what happens to your periods, fertility and whether you should be returning to your birth control. Below we will answer some of your postpartum concerns.

Periods after giving birth 🩸

While it is different for every woman, if you are bottle-feeding or supplementing breastfeeding with a bottle, your period will usually return around 5 to 6 weeks after giving birth. If you are solely breastfeeding, you may not have a period until you stop.

While your body is still adjusting after childbirth, you may notice some differences with your first postpartum period. These may include an increase in cramps, a heavier or irregular flow, and irregular cycles with spotting in between.

Getting pregnant again after you’ve given birth 🤰

Chances are, you and your body is probably feeling sore and tired after your recent birth, so don’t rush to have sex again with your partner before you’re ready. Your body and hormones will be going through a lot of changes after pregnancy, however, there are no rules for when you can start having sex again.

It is possible to get pregnant again before your first postpartum period. Therefore without birth control, you could get pregnant again as early as 3 weeks after giving birth.

It is recommended you wait at least 18-24 months after giving birth before getting pregnant again. Having a shorter gap between pregnancies can increase risks to both you and the baby, including premature birth, growth restrictions and birth defects.

Birth control 💊

Breastfeeding after giving birth can provide natural contraception for the first 6 months. This is known as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). However, it is important to seek additional methods of birth control if:

It’s been more than 6 months since giving birth
You don’t solely breastfeed, i.e. you supplement breastfeeding with formula, a dummy or solid foods
Your period has returned
You are breastfeeding less regularly or you no longer feed at night

Not all methods of birth control are suitable for all women. Therefore, it is important to speak with a GP or health practitioner before deciding which method is suitable for you.

Below is a guide to your options of birth control to use and the timeline of when to usually start using them. However, it is important to still discuss which is the best method for you with your healthcare professional.

Birth control immediately after giving birth

Anytime after the birth, provided you have no health risks, you can use the contraceptive implant, contraceptive injection, the progestogen-only pill, and male and female condoms.

Additionally, IUDs (intrauterine devices) and IUSs (intrauterine systems) can be inserted within 48 hours of giving birth. If they are not inserted during this time, it is usually advised to wait 4 weeks before beginning these methods.

Three weeks after birth

If you are not breastfeeding and have checked with your healthcare professional, you can start using the vaginal ring, the contraceptive patch or the combined pill 3 weeks after giving birth. If used correctly these are all 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Six weeks after birth

If you are breastfeeding, it is best to only start using the vaginal ring, the contraceptive patch and the combined pill 6 weeks after giving birth. It is also best to only start using a diaphragm or a cap again 6 weeks after giving birth. It is important to see your healthcare professional before you start using the diaphragm or cap, as they would need to make sure it still fits correctly. This is because childbirth or gaining and losing weight can mean you may need a different size.

Ultimately, it is your choice which route you want to take. Have an open discussion with your doctor and make the decision that you feel most comfortable with.

Updated on: 12/05/2023

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