It’s a myth that you can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding. So if your baby is due to arrive soon, now may be a good time to start thinking about birth control options. You might be able to go back to what you were doing before but there may be other options that work better. Here are a few you may want to discuss with your doctor:
As the name suggests, barrier methods of birth control offer a physical barrier to sperm which prevents it from reaching your egg. Condoms, diaphragms and cervical caps all fall into the barrier method category and some, like condoms, don’t require any planning or forethought to use. Diaphragms, caps and shields all require either a fitting or a prescription, and they don’t provide protection against STI’s like condoms do.
Hormonal methods of contraception all use synthetic versions of the hormones you naturally produce to stop ovulation or to prevent conception. These include the pill, the patch, implants, and the injection. Some of these (the pill and ring) work on 28 day cycles, and your chances of getting pregnant when you stop or miss a day are high while others, like the injection (depo provera) and implants, can protect you for months or even years at a time. Speak to your doctor before starting any of them as the hormones they contain can affect your ability to breastfeed properly.
Intrauterine Devices or the IUD is a device that is inserted into your uterus, and stays in place for anything from five to ten years. IUD’s can be inserted six weeks after delivery, and some contain hormones, while others use copper wire to prevent pregnancy.
If you’re prepared to breastfeed exclusively, day and night, and you have not yet had a period and if it is six months or less since you had your last baby, then there’s a good chance that you won’t get pregnant. This method of contraception is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method or LAM and is said to be 98 percent effective when used correctly.
The Fertility Awareness Method or FAM works on the same principle that women who are trying to get pregnant use. It relies on you to monitor changes to your body including discharges, mucus, temperatures and more, to track your fertility. When done correctly it allows you to accurately establish when you are fertile but it’s not usually suitable for new mums.
Emergency contraception or the ‘morning after pill’ is a tablet that you take after you’ve had unprotected sex or when your usual contraceptive method has failed. They have to be taken within a certain number of hours but your doctor or pharmacist should be able to advise you. You can also prevent pregnancy by having a copper IUD inserted after you have had unprotected sex.
Unlike other forms of birth control where fertility returns, sterilisation is thought to be permanent. Although the procedures can be reversible, doctors advise that you only have them done if you are sure that you don’t want any more children. The procedures are either a vasectomy (your partner will have the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles, called the vas deferens, cut) or the tubal sterilisation (you have your fallopian tubes cut, cauterised or clamped.) Neither of these procedures will affect your ability to have sex, your hormones, or if you choose a tubal sterilisation, your ability to breastfeed. You can also sometimes schedule it to coincide with your child’s birth and avoid a second surgery.