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Birth Control for Postpartum & Breastfeeding Moms

July 19, 2021
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5 MIN
Birth control

The experts at Twentyeight Health are here to share doctor-vetted advice on finding a reliable form of birth control, depending on what you want or need. Check out their tips below.

Whether you’ve recently given birth or are chasing after a toddler, if you’re not planning on having another child right now (or maybe ever), there are several safe birth control options to choose from. 

If you’re… postpartum

For your first 3 weeks after giving birth, it is not recommended to use any form of birth control that contains estrogen (such as the combination pill with estrogen, the patch, or the ring). This is because estrogen can raise your risk of developing a blood clot, which is already elevated due to pregnancy. If you’re breastfeeding, estrogen may also reduce your milk supply.

Luckily, there are plenty of estrogen-free options, including the progestin-only birth control known as the “minipill,” and the birth control shot, which can be administered by a clinician at the doctor’s office or self-administered at home. If you’re looking for something long-term, your doctor can outfit you with an IUD or implant during a postpartum visit.

If you’re… breastfeeding

During the first 6 months after childbirth, breastfeeding can be a natural form of birth control, but only when it’s done on a regular schedule and without any breaks. This means that you are exclusively breastfeeding every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night. Your baby needs to consume only breast milk, and it needs to come from the breast, not a bottle. With this regimen, the risk of pregnancy is <5%. 

For anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to stick to that intensive schedule, progestin-only pills (also known as “minipills”) are a good postpartum option. When breastfeeding, forms of birth control that contain estrogen are best avoided, since it can sometimes reduce milk supply. 

Worried that progestin could negatively impact your newborn? While studies show that small amounts of progestin can be detected in the breast milk of mothers who use the progestin-only pill, no harmful amounts were detected in their infants.

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If you’re… experiencing migraines

Hormonal fluctuations are common during the postpartum and breastfeeding months. If you’re someone who experiences hormonal migraines, hormonal birth control can help. Birth control prevents the fluctuation in estrogen that happens before your period, which can steady your hormone levels and mitigate or even eliminate hormonal migraines altogether. Important to know: if you’re someone who experiences migraine with aura, you should not take birth control methods that contain estrogen because estrogen could put you at increased risk of blood clots and stroke. Safer choices include progestin-only pills and the birth control shot.

If you’re… looking to skip your periods

If you’re looking to skip your periods altogether, there are many safe ways with different birth control methods:

Birth control pills present the most options: Extended-cycle pills have 91 pills in a pack and are designed so that periods only occur 4 times per year. With brands that have 28 pills in a pack, you can take the 21 active pills, skipping the 7 day placebo pills and start the next pack immediately on the 22nd day. With brands that have 21 pills in a pack, you can take the 21 active pills and start the next pack immediately on the 22nd day. Combination pills have active pills that contain hormones, and inactive pills, or “placebo pills.” To skip your period, don’t take the inactive pills and start your next pack right away. 

The ring is designed to be removed after 3 weeks and then the user waits 1 week before inserting a new ring. To skip your period, you would insert the new ring every 3 weeks. 

The patch is designed to be applied once a week for 3 weeks and then the user typically skips a week when they’re on their period. To skip your period, you would start a new patch every single week. 

Additionally, there are some birth control methods that lead to lighter or no periods:

The birth control shot typically causes periods to become lighter and less frequent, and may lead them to stop altogether. Note that you can’t change the timing of the shot to fully control skipping your period; the shot should be taken every 3 months as instructed. 

An IUD or implant is associated with lighter periods, or periods may stop altogether, but there’s no guarantee.

If you decide to stop taking birth control at some point, your period will typically return to normal after about a month, but timing can vary depending on the method. 

If you’re… likely to forget to take a daily pill

We know that moms often have busy days, and there are options to take birth control off of your daily to-do list. You can try a once-weekly option like the birth control patch or a once-monthly option like the birth control ring. There’s even a birth control ring you can use all year, called Annovera. Additionally, there’s the birth control shot, which is administered every 3 months. 

If you’re...looking for something to set & forget 

There are lots of great options for long-acting birth control methods that can last from months to years. Consider the birth control shot, which you can inject yourself right at home just once every 3 months. Or, for even longer-term options, consider the IUD, which is inserted by a doctor and can stay in place up to 12 years, depending on the type of IUD you choose. There’s also the implant, called Nexplanon, which is a small rod that’s inserted under the skin of your arm and effectively prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years.

From the daily pill to the IUD, there are many birth control options to meet your needs, no matter what stage of motherhood you’re in. For more information and doctor-vetted advice, visit Twentyeight Health.

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About Twentyeight Health

Twentyeight Health, a mission-driven women's healthcare platform, offers convenient birth control and emergency contraception online. Choose from 100+ brands, including the pill, patch, ring, and shot, for $0/month with insurance (including Medicaid) or starting at $16/month without insurance. Twentyeight donates 2% of its revenues to the National Institute for Reproductive Health and Bedsider. With every delivery you receive, you help individuals in need get reproductive care.

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